Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Authorities found the body of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford under a porch 150 yards from her home. She had been raped and then buried alive in a plastic garbage bag only a day before police caught up with her captor, convicted sex offender John Evander Couey.
Under newly proposed federal legislation, convicted child sex offenders like Couey could be forced to wear Global Positioning System devices that would let authorities track and record their every move.
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, announced on Tuesday his plan to introduce the Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde Act to the U.S. House, which would establish a pilot program for states to get grants from the Attorney General for the electronic monitoring of child sex offenders.
“The GPS can work in assisting local law enforcement to know where they are, and prevent them from going into restricted areas,” Filner said at a press conference on the steps of the Chula Vista Police Department surrounded by local law enforcement and government leaders.
“That perimeter will keep them away from schools, day care centers, churches — anywhere you might find children — and just like (auto theft tracking device) Lo Jack on a car, it shows you where the individual is going,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
The federal grants would be competitive, meaning California — much less San Diego — would not be guaranteed any money. But a state pilot program between San Diego County law enforcement and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is already tracking about 80 “high-risk” child sex offenders in San Diego with GPS.
“Our people are so far ahead of the game that I’m sure they’d get a real sizeable percentage of [any money],” Filner said.
Under current laws, only child sex offenders who are on probation could be tracked. About 3,500 registered sex offenders live in the San Diego area, according to Dumanis.
“We all know that that is the highest recidivism rate of any crime that is committed in our country,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kollander.
The high repeat-offense rate for sex offenders has prompted a national effort to monitor their activity, overriding, authorities say, concerns about personal privacy.
Calls seeking comment from the San Diego American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center were not returned by deadline.
Despite rules requiring them to register their location with local authorities, Filner said the location of about 33,000 registered sex offenders in California is currently unknown to law enforcement.
“With GPS, we can be more effective in monitoring and making sure the community is aware of where these people are,” Filner said.
GPS tracking would not only let authorities know when an offender entered a restricted area, but could also provide valuable intelligence on their activities, with digital records of the individual’s location over a period of time helping to alert authorities to any suspicious behavior, said Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Force Commander Ernie Limon.
Originally a top-shelf Department of Defense technology during the Cold War, the Global Positioning System relies on a network of satellites above the earth, which transmit signals that allow a GPS receiver to compute position, speed and time.
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