A bill making it easier for the state to track a modest number of people on parole or probation has proven popular with Nevada lawmakers. As the Senate quickly approved Senate Bill 37 sending it to the Assembly, where it's being debated by the Judiciary Committee.
The legislation allows the state to track criminal offenders granted parole or probation and under house arrest using electronic devices that monitor their movements.
While the bill is controversial with civil rights groups in Nevada, GPS is already being used to track some criminals.
“Currently, our division has the ability to track certain tier three sex offenders,” Lt. David Helgerman with the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation Department told KNPR’s State of Nevada. “Juvenile parolees are currently being tracked with GPS technology.”
Helgerman said current law doesn’t allow them to track parolees and probationers when they are outside of the home. He said if the bill becomes law, they’ll be able to use a technology that is already being used by other department across the country.
“We’ll just be bringing Nevada in line with the rest of the country,” Helgerman said. “Nevada has almost 20,000 parolees and probationers and this bill would only affect about 150 of them.”
Helgerman said he didn’t believe GPS “can prevent someone from committing a crime, other than then knowing where their location is.” He described the technology as an alternative to sending someone to prison.
“We can keep better tabs on them,” Helgerman said.
But, Helgerman strongly disagreed with American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story’s concerns that the legislation had little oversight and presumes someone is guilty until proven innocent.
Story told KNPR’s State of Nevada that is not how out justice system should work. He also compared GPS tracking to the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report.
"Somehow future crimes could be prevented by tracking everyone in society," said Story. "Big brother and small government advocates should be very concerned about this particular legislation."
Helgerman there is “oversight on who is placed on house arrest” in Nevada.
“Any parolee or probationers that violates (their) house arrest has the right to a hearing,” he said. “So we believe there is due process for violating conditions of house arrest. And that there is oversight on who is placed in the program.”
Lieutenant David Helgerman, Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation Department