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Tracking Sex Offenders With Electronic Monitoring Technology: Implications and Practical Uses for Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2008
16 pages
Since electronic monitoring is emerging as a common tool in the supervision of sex offenders, this report instructs law enforcement personnel in its uses, capabilities, and disadvantages.
The report focuses on Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) monitoring systems, since this is the most common type of electronic monitoring technology used in supervising sex offenders. The offender wears a device that enables satellite tracking of the wearer's movements and locations, which are communicated to a central unit accessible to law enforcement or corrections personnel. The information obtained by a GPS system enables tracking whether the wearer is at home or work, monitoring sleep patterns, determining whether the wearer has been drinking alcohol or using drugs, and the exact location of the wearer at certain times. Although the use of electronic monitoring to supervise sex offenders has been used mostly by corrections personnel, some State legislatures have authorized funding for GPS systems in the enforcement of sex offenders exclusion zones and residency restrictions for certain registered sex offenders. GPS data may also be used in placing a sex offender at a crime scene. Evaluations have shown that this technology has increased compliance with treatment orders, is appropriate for sex offenders, and reduces sex offender absconding and recidivism. The benefits of GPS systems, however, are also accompanied by some disadvantages. They include high daily cost, reliance on wireless data service storage, labor intensive, requirement of immediate agency response, greater agency liability in the event of a malfunction or misuse, and the size and weight of the tracking device. Some suggestions are offered for the expansion of policies and procedures for GPS monitoring. 24-item bibliography