Team 10 Troubleshooter investigates criminals who cut off GPS monitoring devices

Stats show GPS-cutting incidents on rise

SAN DIEGO - An increasing number of violent criminals and sex offenders who are supposed to be watched by the state are cutting off their GPS ankle bracelets.

Police and lawmakers tell Team 10 this is an unintended consequence of "realignment" -- California's answer to reducing the number of inmates in prison.

Team 10 found criminals are cutting these bracelets off and committing crimes in places like San Diego.

Click here to read California GPS Monitoring study

"We have a spiking of dangerous inmates who are cutting off their bracelets and not being monitored," said State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).

Felons like Hubert Jayvon Hunter, who cut his GPS bracelet in 2007 and vanished.

Court records show Hunter was convicted of murder when he was 18 years old. He served time, and was later released from prison and put on parole.

Ten years later, he raped a 16-year-old girl in Mission Bay. After that prison sentence, he was paroled and given a GPS device.

Deputy Probation Officer Lester Brown keeps track of 20 sex offenders using the ankle bracelets in San Diego County.

None of the sex offenders he keeps track of have ever cut and run. He said this is more of an issue with people on parole not probation, but Brown was able to show Team 10 how the bracelets work.

Once a bracelet is on and activated, Brown can set up places where the offender can and cannot go. He can also set a curfew.

If someone tries to tamper with the device or take it off in any way, Brown gets a tamper alert, phone call and an email.

"It would be of high concern because if they take it off, it's more than likely that they are planning doing something they are not supposed to do," said Brown.

Team 10 covered the high-profile case of Vincent Greco, a paroled sex offender and former volunteer San Diego music teacher who cut his GPS ankle bracelet off twice.

Sky 10 was overhead last year as deputies brought this Amtrak train to a screeching halt and pulled the convicted child molester out.

Authorities say Greco was trying to make run for it.

Lieu said violent felons on parole are doing this all over the state.

"You've got over 1,000 parolees who have cut off their bracelets and we don't know where they are," said Lieu.

Lieu told Team 10 cutting off a GPS ankle bracelet used to be a felony and an automatic year in prison.

After realignment in 2011, the law changed and now cutting off a bracelet is punishable by up to six months in county jail.

"Some counties have such overcrowding at county jails they weren't even booking these people because they just viewed it as a technical parole violation," said Lieu.

Click here to read the amendments to Senate Bill 57

Numbers provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation show that the number of parolees cutting off their bracelets has risen 118 percent since the law changed.

Lieu's office believes the actual number could be even higher.

The CDCR told Team 10 it is working on a new report, but those figures are not available until the report is finished. The CDCR also said Team 10 had the latest figures available.

Click here to view the latest figures obtained by Team 10

Lieu just introduced legislation making it a felony and three years in prison to cut off the device.

"As more and more realize there is a change in the law, you are going to see more and more people cutting off their GPS ankle bracelets," said Lieu.

Every day, the state updates a list of sex offenders and felons who had cut their GPS ankle bracelets.

Click here to view the list

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told Team 10 in a statement:

"The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation takes criminals removing GPS devices very seriously and has fugitive apprehension teams aggressively tracking and arresting these convicts. Unfortunately, criminals often re-offend; that happened both before and after the state implemented Realignment, which let's not forget, was in response to a federal court order. Realignment provides hundreds of millions of dollars to counties to incarcerate and supervise offenders. Decisions on how that money gets spent and who stays in custody are made, as they should be, at the local level. We understand the public has concerns, and that is why the state is working closely with counties on solutions to improve public safety."

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