Some sex offenders may be forced to wear GPS trackers

Dec 21, 2005
Of The Oakland Press

PONTIAC – Convicted sex predators who target children could be forced to
undergo realtime satellite monitoring under legislation announced by
state Rep. David Law on Tuesday. The proposal would set up Michigan’s own
version of the so-called Jessica’s Law.

Patterning the proposal after the Florida measure, Law said the
legislation would require convicted sex offenders who prey upon children
under age 13 to wear global satellite tracking devices for life. The
proposal would apply to those convicted of first- or second-degree sex
offenses, which include penetration or unlawful touching for the purpose
of arousal.

The proposal would also require individual offenders to reimburse the
state for the costs of monitoring “where they are able to do so,” and
would make it a two-year felony for an offender to attempt to remove,
deactivate or damage the tracking device or neglect to pay reimbursement
where required.

“That’s a tool whose time has come,” said Law, a Commerce Township
Republican and former assistant prosecutor for Oakland County. “We have
to do everything as a state and society to protect our children.”

Jessica’s Law is named after Jessica Langford, a 9-year-old Florida girl
who was raped and murdered after being snatched from her bedroom by a
registered sex offender living nearby. When it was signed in May, it was
cited as one of the toughest child-sex laws in the nation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of
November, at least 12 states including Florida have passed laws
establishing satellite monitoring of sex offenders. Minnesota and Texas
are experimenting with the technology without legislation.

Law announced the legislation during a news conference with Oakland
County Prosecutor David Gorcyca and Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who helped
draft the proposal. As a state senator, Bouchard sponsored the 1994 law
that created a sex offender registry in Michigan, which requires certain
sex offenders to register their names and addresses annually with the
State Police for at least 25 years.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Law said the proposal is
needed because pedophiles demonstrate high rates of recidivism and
because satellite tracking would make it easier to quickly track the
whereabouts of offenders. He said nearly three-fourths of abducted
children who are murdered are killed within the fi rst three hours of
being kidnapped.

Law cited a recent media report that found that the state cannot account
for nearly one-fourth of its registered sex offenders.

“That’s 9,000 offenders running unchecked throughout the state of
Michigan,” Law said. “That’s unacceptable and that’s scary.”

As of Nov. 3, the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry listed 37,916
offenders, a fi gure that is not limited to child-sex offenders.

Bouchard said individual pedophiles average more than 100 victims each.
He said he is often asked when it is safe to allow pedophiles to move on
with their lives.

“The day they can move on with their lives is the day the child can
forget the trauma that was placed upon their life as a result of that
adult’s action,” he said.

The legislation would entrust administration of the tracking program with
the state Department of Corrections. Law said Florida officials have
estimated their tracking program could cost as much as $8 million, but
have so far set aside $3.9 million.

Law said finding money to establish a similar program in Michigan boils
down to making it a priority come budget time.

“To me, this is priority No. 1,” he said, “and I’ll take this fight to
the state Legislature and make sure it’s properly funded.”

Law said he plans to introduce the legislation when the Legislature
reconvenes in January.

Copyright © 2004 The Oakland Press

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