SANTA ANA, Calif. – GPS technology helped police link two convicted sex offenders to the rapes and killings of at least four women in California, but the mother of one victim said Tuesday that the monitoring system should have done more to prevent the crimes in the first place.
If they were monitored correctly, then maybe none of this would have happened, said Jodi Michelle Pier-Estepp, mother of victim Jarrae Nykkole Estepp, whose naked body was found March 14 on a conveyor belt at an Anaheim trash-sorting plant.
The situation has raised new questions about the effectiveness of the devices that are supposed to deter criminals by keeping them away from forbidden areas such as schools and playgrounds and from anyone who has a protective order.
They are also supposed to be an investigative tool for law enforcement to track down convicts.
Federal and state officials said the devices worked as intended after Estepp was killed, pinpointing the locations of suspects Franc Cano, 27, and Steven Dean Gordon, 45, after the crimes.
Unfortunately, GPS monitoring cannot always deter crimes, said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which was monitoring Cano. They are tools that show us where a monitored offender has been and can place them at the scene of a crime. A monitor has no way to detect whether a crime is being committed.
Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said he had little information on whether the devices were used properly by state parole and federal probation agents who were monitoring the movements of Cano and Gordon.
Restrictions on how the devices are used are set by the agency overseeing the offender, Yellin said.
Electronic monitoring of criminals has become increasingly popular, with more than 100,000 tracked by anklets nationally. But critics say the devices are far from a foolproof way to ensure that felons obey the law after being released from prison.
The devices send out multiple alerts a day, and it is up to often-overloaded parole and probation workers to sort out serious threats from glitches. In several cases, it took law enforcement days to notice that criminals had tampered with their devices.