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Electronic Monitors Easy To Remove, But Capture Imminent

Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE
Last year, 80 people cut off their electronic monitors. All were recaptured by CMPD

In any given month, CMPD tracks about 350 people with ankle monitors. They’re actually not that hard to remove. But the consequences of tampering with the electronic monitors are made clear: If you even try to remove any part of one, police are immediately alerted, and you will be arrested. And, this happens a lot – roughly 80 times a year.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
CMPD officer Bruce Edwards has been with the electronic monitoring division since its beginning in 2007.

The black monitors are easy to put on. They have a wide band and a small black box attached to them. They are bulky but light, and it’s easy to see how offenders can cut off the hard rubber band.

“It’s not that we can’t make it where people can’t take it off, but OSHA requires that if someone is wearing it and gets into an accident or have a medical emergency, the paramedic can use regular scissors to cut it off,” says CMPD Officer Bruce Edwards.

He says police are alerted immediately if any of the parts are removed.

“It has fiber optic lines in here, so you can’t cut it off and put it back together without us knowing. It has pressure sensors if you try to tamper with it,” he said.

Even with all of that, last year, 80 offenders cut off their monitors. One young lady took hers off and put it in her purse.

“She wanted to get high and thought if she took it apart it wouldn’t work right,” he said.

It worked.

“We even have people put foil around the device attempting to circumvent the GPS and it doesn’t work. We had a bunch of juveniles breaking into businesses along WT Harris on a spree and thought 'they won’t know because I’ve put aluminum foil and done some other things' but we tracked them,” Edwards said.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
The electronic monitor fits around the ankle with a square-shaped computer attached.

The juveniles were so confident that the devices were deactivated that when Edwards and his partner found them they were all asleep in a parked car.

CMPD started its monitoring program in 2007 to focus on juvenile offenders. They expanded it to adult offenders three years ago and the number of removals doubled.

“We monitor folks for robbery, we have several murderers out here in the community, we have people who break into cars and homes, we have serious domestic violence offenders that we monitor, people who shoot each other,” he said.

Most wearing the devices are out on bond. Edwards says they typically remove the monitors when there’s about to be a change in their case.

“A lot of times they’ve just met with their attorney and were told they will have to do active time, or their case is about to go to trial or they just committed a crime and forgot the monitor’s on their ankle,” Edwards said.

By the way, according to Edwards, most are recaptured within hours or a day or two but some take longer.

“Some fled the country and we got them back. We’ve caught them in New York, Mexico, California, Florida, some stay local. Everyone that’s cut if off ends up back in jail. We will catch you,” he said.

With additional charges for tampering with the monitor tacked on. Cutting off the monitor is a misdemeanor but destroying its electronic box is a felony.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.