Firm nabs share of electronic monitoring market

Firm nabs share of electronic monitoring market

Red Deer Advocate
Author: Harley Richards

SafeTracks GPS Canada Inc. of Red Deer is pictured with a GPS ankle bracelet that the company is supplying to law enforcement agencies across Canada.

A convicted pedophile on conditional release approaches a youngster at a playground. But before he can reach the child, a device strapped to his ankle emits an ear-piercing alarm, followed by the stern voice of a police officer.

The man flees, but is located and apprehended within minutes.

Thanks to electronic GPS monitoring, such preventive policing is not only possible but is currently used by law enforcement agencies, including in Alberta. And helping supply the technology is a Red Deer company called SafeTracks GPS Canada Inc.

SafeTracks provides GPS-equipped ankle bracelets that can be worn by people like high-risk offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence. Weighing just 16 ounces, the units can be set to vibrate if they enter a pre-established restricted area, and/or emit a 95-decibel alarm. They also contain a cellphone, allowing for two-way communication between authorities and the person being monitored.

In 2002, Jablonski chaired the Government MLA Review of Correctional Services. Implementing an electronic monitoring pilot was second on the committee’s list of 33 recommendations. The University of Calgary will be evaluating the Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary projects. Wheeliker said GPS devices are another law enforcement tool. “We don’t want to give the community or the public the impression that this is the be-all and end-all because it isn’t. It’s another component of a comprehensive, coordinated response to domestic violence and it’s a component of victim safety planning,” said Wheeliker.

They can be worn in a shower, and alert monitoring officials if their battery is not being recharged or their reinforced cuff is being tampered with.

“I took four-foot bolt cutters and tried to cut this off, and I couldn’t,” said SafeTracks President and founder Vince Morelli.

The origins of SafeTracks date back several years, when Morelli began pondering ways to protect victims of domestic violence. He teamed up with Bob Aloisio, the company’s Director of Business Development, who had an extensive background in global positioning systems, telematics and automated vehicle location technologies.

The impetus for SafeTracks GPS Canada Inc. was a desire to help victims of domestic violence.

But while developing their system for tracking and monitoring the perpetrators of such acts, it occurred to Vince Morelli and Bob Aloisio — SafeTracks’ President and Director of Business Development respectively — that their technology could protect these and other vulnerable people.

The result is a personal electronic monitoring division, through which victims of violence and others can carry small GPS devices.

The units have an SOS button with which to summon help. They also provide two-way voice communication, can call designated phone numbers with the push of a button, and allow for the wearer’s location, direction and speed of travel, and movement history to be determined.

“It’s like an OnStar in the palm of your hand,” said Morelli.

In addition to giving peace of mind to past and potential victims of violence, the units could help safeguard people in potentially hazardous occupations, he added. Social workers, real estate agents, probation officers, taxi drivers, security guards and convenience store clerk are among the possibilities.

Additionally, said Morelli, Persons with Disabilities — such as those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia — could be monitored to ensure they don’t leave a predetermined zone. SafeTracks has been testing its personal electronic monitoring equipment in a variety of situations and settings, said Morelli. In one case, it helped prevent a Central Alberta youth with severe mental health and substance abuse issues from putting himself in danger.

Working with his mother and mental health officials, SafeTracks fit the teen with one of its GPS ankle bracelets. If he left his family’s rural home, the unit vibrated and the monitoring centre notified his mother.

The woman, who did not want herself of her son identified in this story, said he quickly learned to return to his yard when the unit prompted him. On one occasion, the monitoring centre was able to verify that he was sitting in the bush not far away.

“We just waited and then he started walking back home,” said his mother. “But if he’d gone on the highway and we’d seen that he was moving, we could have called the police to get him.”

After 100 days, the bracelet was removed. But the youth still remained within his boundaries.

“It’s totally extinguished any running away behavior,” said his mother, adding that keeping him in a controlled area reduced the severity of his addiction and allowed his mental state to improve.

“He’s a totally different kid.”

This application is the tip of the iceberg, agreed Morelli and Aloisio.

Law enforcement officers are another group who could benefit from location monitoring, and they’ve also discussed their technology with the operators of an Alberta ski hill.