I-Team: New tracking of criminal suspects

CLEVELAND- The FOX 8 I-Team has found authorities trying something new to keep watch on criminal suspects, especially domestic violence suspects, on your streets.

We’ve learned, in the last week, Cleveland Municipal Court has started using ankle bracelets, electronic monitoring on some suspects.

The court is using the ankle bracelets on suspects before their trials when they may not be able to pay the cost of posting bond to get out of jail, yet they may also be a risk on the streets.

The new program will not be used in cases such as murder, rape and robbery. Instead, mostly in cases of domestic violence and aggravated menacing.

The court believes the electronic monitoring can help some suspects stay out of jail while also helping to keep them away from victims.

Michelle Earley, Chief Judge for Cleveland Municipal Court, told the I-Team, "The judges of Cleveland Municipal Court believe this is something that would be good for the community."

Judge Earley added the court will do extra screening before hooking up someone with an ankle bracelet -- more than a few questions at a hearing.

She said, "And if there's someone who we believe is not going to abide by the order, or has a number of violations, or an extensive criminal history, we're not gonna give ‘em GPS."

The court says the ankle bracelets get monitored by a private firm 24/7. And, if any of the suspects go where they shouldn't, an arrest warrant will get filed at the clerk's office. But we wondered: Will law enforcement go right out and search? Or, will those warrants just get put into the system with thousands of others?

We found that a judge will be notified of a violation that day or the next business day. And the warrants will go into the system with all of the others on file.

Nonetheless, a local agency working with victims supports the program. The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center calls the GPS monitoring an “effective tool” to help protect victims.

While the city court is just starting this, Cuyahoga County Court has had an ankle bracelet monitoring program for people charged with crimes before trial and for some convicts after trial. The county also does not generally consider anyone for electronic monitoring in the most violent cases.

How often do people violate an order restricting where they can go while on a GPS monitor? The I-Team found in Cuyahoga County last year 896 new people were added to GPS monitoring; 10-15% fail by not following the rules.