Studies Find Multiple Uses for GPS Technology in Monitoring Offenders and Preventing Crime

Due to the widespread use of GPS technology in law enforcement and little evidence-based knowledge of its effectiveness, NIJ funded two studies about how parole officers in California used GPS technology to monitor high-risk gang and high-risk sex offenders. The research showed how GPS supervision might affect parole compliance and recidivism.

The sex offender population who received traditional parole supervision was three times as likely to commit a sex-related violation as those who received the GPS supervision, and twice as likely to be arrested as those who received the GPS supervision. Conversely, the gang offenders under GPS supervision were less likely to be arrested for a violent offence, but more likely to commit a parole violation.

A primary difference in these two programs was that unlike gang offenders, sex offenders received mandated treatment and rehabilitation. GPS tracking might encourage sex offenders to continue their specified treatment regimens and thus decrease the likelihood of continued criminal behavior. Similarly, GPS use tends to dissuade non-monitored gang offenders from associating with monitored gang members to avoid being exposed as an associate.

In comparing these two studies, researchers discovered promising evidence that GPS technology offers increased public safety by potentially removing dangerous criminals from the streets before they commit more violent crimes. Moreover, the findings suggest GPS monitoring technology can serve multiple crime prevention purposes despite behavior differences within disparate offender populations.

Read a summary of these findings in the NIJ Journal, issue 275.