Vic Coalition to track sex offenders, arsonists with GPS technology

• High-tech monitoring for serious offenders and suspects on bail

A Baillieu Government will fund a $5 million upgrade of Victoria’s outdated electronic offender monitoring system and introduce Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to better track offenders and protect Victorians from dangerous offenders, Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Leader Ted Baillieu said today.

Under the Coalition’s plan, courts will be able to order GPS monitoring of serious sex offenders and convicted arsonists on supervision orders, and suspects who are released on strict bail conditions before trial. “After 11 years of Labor, John Brumby’s outdated monitoring system is failing to keep Victorians safe from dangerous criminals,” Mr Baillieu said.

“Thanks to Labor’s inaction, offenders can easily re-offend despite monitoring, and high-risk suspects on bail can flee without detection.

“Only the Coalition will build a safer Victoria, better protect Victorian families from dangerous criminals and restore public confidence in our justice system.

“The move to cutting-edge GPS technology will allow authorities to accurately track offenders in real time wherever they go, unlike Labor’s system which relies on the offender’s proximity to a base unit.

“GPS technology has been ignored by John Brumby and his incompetent government and it is clear that an upgrade of Victoria’s old electronic monitoring hardware to a modern GPS-based system is long overdue,” Mr Baillieu said.

The limitations of the current monitoring system were highlighted late last year when it was reported that a repeat sex offender who was subject to electronic monitoring allegedly indecently assaulted eight women in broad daylight over a period of two months.

Authorities had no way of linking the attacks to the offender because existing monitoring technology can only give authorities an offender’s location when they are close to a base station, usually installed in the offender’s home.

The current system’s reliability had also been questioned following revelations that serious sex offenders have been able to flee or have gone unmonitored, sometimes for weeks at a time, before authorities became aware that they were off-line.

“Labor has had years to fix a system that is failing to protect Victorians,” Mr Baillieu said. “If Victorian families are to be protected from serious offenders when they return to the community, it is vital that those offenders are properly monitored.”

A GPS-based monitoring system provides the following benefits:
• The ability to track offenders in any location across Victoria, Australia or around the world
• The ability to track offenders in real time
• The system can be programmed with the offender’s bail conditions or conditions of release and automatically alert authorities if curfews or no-go zones are breached
• A greater deterrence as offenders know they are under constant surveillance
• The ability to quickly identify last known locality of offenders who abscond.

The current system, which Labor uses for some sex offenders and offenders on Labor’s home detention, is based on a radio frequency (RF) bracelet or tag fitted to the ankle of the offender, which communicates with a base station installed in the offender’s home and/or workplace. It can automatically alert corrections staff if the subject moves out of range of the base station. A mobile tag scanner can also be used by corrections staff to manually locate an offender who is within close range.

However, the current technology in use in Victoria has limited functionality and is of little or no benefit in monitoring an offender’s movements when they are out of range of their base station.

GPS-based offender monitoring has been in use in New South Wales since 2008.

The proposed new GPS system will also strengthen a Coalition initiative announced last year to subject convicted arsonists to ongoing supervision after release.

“If the Coalition is elected, authorities will be able to track the movements of known arsonists in real time on days of high fire danger,” Mr Baillieu said.

“The new monitoring system will also be available to courts when setting bail conditions, as part of tough reforms to Victoria’s bail system announced by the Coalition earlier this year.

“John Brumby should admit Labor has failed and adopt our policy to better protect Victorian families from dangerous criminals,” Mr Baillieu said.