"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" so called satellite tracking plans
Blair and Blunkett blamed the "permissive 1960s" , when launching their communist style "5 year plan" on crime earlier this summer.
However, they still seem to be emulating Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" with off the cuff political soundbites with. no actual clue about technology or how to implement it, or even what exactly they are trying to achieve with it, apart from getting re-elected.
Home Office Press release "Eye in the Sky Launched to Monitor Offenders"
What is so difficult to understand about Global Positioning Satellite tracking technology that the media seem to be conducting a deliberate campaign of disinformation about it ?
We thought that only The Times (despite being owned by the Murdoch media empire, which includes Sky and other actual satellite TV broadcasters) had slipped up in its explanation of the technology, but they have now repeated their previous disinformation::
"Eye in the sky tracks child sex offenders"
By Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
"The satellite can tell where a person has been during a given period, when a person is approaching an area from which he is excluded and monitor individual movements.
It works by placing an ankle bracelet on a subject, and linking it electronically to a mobile tracking device clipped to his belt. The device will send signals to the satellite, allowing the offender's movement to be monitored. "
This misinformation seems to have infected the BBC with the meme of technological ignorance as well.
They are still trying to give the impression that the electronic tags somehow magically transmit data up to the orbiting satellites, which then somehow communicates with the central control centre.
This is such utter rubbish - the satellites only transmit an accurate time signal from orbit around the Earth down to the GPS receivers, which do not act as satellite uplink stations at all, or pass any kind of elmessage to the central control centre at al, despite whats shown by the BBC illustration and as "explained" by the Times.
This is not a mere technical detail. but a fundamental misunderstanding which colours the rest of the so called reporting.
The TV reporters who gleefully strapped on electronic tags and walked around Manchester's Old Trafford Football Stadium helped to promote a false image of the accuracy and usefulness of the technology. Why did they not drive around in a closed panel van, with no line of sight to the 4 GPS satellites needed for a position fix ?
Even if the technology really was accurate in practice as the hype claims, which, based on our pratical experience with GPS systems is extremely unlikely, how exactly are "exclusion zones" going to be defined ?
Will a persistant burglar be banned from being a certain distance (whatever that may be) from a domestic dwelling or commercial premises ? If this were actually enforced, then the system would be raising an alarm almost constantly.
Is it intended that an "exclusion zone" should cover just physical access or should it extend to the visual reconnaisance area afforded by telescopes, binoculars, camera zoom lenses etc ?
What evidence is there that the often quoted "school playgrounds" have ever been the prime location for child sex abuse ? None whatsover.Will the schools in the "protected" areas be informed of any "exclusion zone violations" or will the Government keep these secret ?
The Home Office is silent on these and other questions, and the suspicion must be that they have not actually formulated a policy, whilst wasting at least ?3 million of our money on this "white heat of technology" soundbite project.
Opposition politicians and the media (with the honourable exception of The Register, which is, unfortunately, not mainstream media) have let down the public by not asking any of these questions.
40 tags per area x 3 areas = 120 tags ?
No, not quite.
There do not seem to be 120 offenders all lined up and ready to participate in this alleged "technology pilot", since the courts will have to impose exclusion orders etc., so the weasel words "up to 120" over a year could actually be significantly fewer.
If that is the case, then the cost per tagged offender under this "technology pilot" will rise above the ?25,000 per head that it looks as if it will cost at present.
One might assume that if the Home Office is paying ?1 million to each of the three fixed phone line electronic tag monitoring companies, to use US technology which they themselves are not supplying (some of them have rival tagging technology available),
The assumption is that they would divide the cake equally, but this cannot be the case, as each area has a different mix of offenders.
How many sex offenders and violent offenders will actually be monitored ?
We would argue that no offenders on the ViSOR (Violent or Sexual Offender Register) should be included in this pilot scheme - if they are a risk to the community, they should remain in prison.
Will the Home Secretary resign if one of the violent offenders breaks commits an offence whilst being electronically tagged ?
Careful reading of the Home Office Press release shows that sex offenders from the West Midlands or Hampshire will not actually be tracked. The whole of Greater Manchester is the trial area for sex offenders, not just Bolton, Salford, Tameside and Wigan which is the area for monitoring the persistant adult offenders.
This implies that there is likely to be only a handful of sex offenders who will be monitored as part of this pilot scheme, rather different from the headlines in the Times, the Daily Mail and other media which imply that the main category of offenders to be monitored in this trial and eventually in a national scheme would be sex offenders, which is patently untrue.
The Home Office seems to be planning to monitor some of the potentially dangerous offenders on the scheme (who should not actiually be on it at all) through the "passive" monitoring, which would give them a 24 hour head start if they chose to attack someone again, before an alarm is even raised, assuming that such attacks actually do happen in the alleged "no go zones".
Will the "hybrid" technology actually help "domestic violence" offenders to hunt down their victims in "battered women's refuges" ? The technology is designed to give an audible warning that an offender is approaching the boundary of a "no go zone".If the battered spouse is taking refuge, not at home, but at a friend or relatives home or in a battered women's shelter, will the Home Office or their sub-contractors programme in these as "no go zones" ?
What exactly is being tested ?
Why is the Home Office only testing one USA made brand of GPS tracking technology and not testing any UK products ?
Why are the different networks Mobile Phone Location Services not being compared ? They do not have equal coverage, which is needed to avoid reception blackspots etc.
The myth of "instant response" to alarms raised by the technology.
This is like Closed Circuit Televesion Cameras all over again. The impression given by the Home Office is that the technology is somehow magically linked to adequately staffed and funded rapid response teams of police or security guards etc. who will swoop into action within a few minutes of the CCTV/Electronic Tag etc technolgy raising an alarm, thereby foiling a crime in progress or at least giving immediate aid to a victim.
In fact we know this to be a myth, as is borne out by the recent murders in London, where CCTV coverage has acted as no deterrent at all to the criminals, and has been used to hunt down potential witnesses to crimes, despite them not actually having seen anything relevant at all.
This will be even more acute if, as is the case with electronic GPS tagging, the main reason for its introduction is an attempt to save money, at the expense of public safety, by releasing criminals into the community who would otherwise be in prison.
Commercial conflict of interest
How can private sector firms with existing and hoped for contracts to build and
run private prisons, actually be involved in a measure designed to reduce the prison population ?
Which is going to be more profitable to them ?
Is it worth the risk ?
Even if the technology works, there is no guarantee that the system to enforce it does.
The case of Lawrence Napper a convicted rapist, in Texas, who, despite still wearing the Pro Tech tracking technology, managed to rack up 440 "parole violations" and thrteen arrest warrants in 9 months, including returning to the supposed "no go zone" campus where he had commiteed the rape, and eventually was arrested for allegedly molesting a 6 year old boy.
He was not re-arrested and sent back to prison, because officials were trying to justify the "cost savings" of the tagging project, and sending too many people back to prison would have cast doubts on the cost effectiveness of the scheme, and presumably on their careers.
How can they make major decisions on the basis of such a small, short pilot project ?
Where are the independent analyses of how well the existing electronic tagging system, which uses fixed landline telephones to supposedly enforce curfews and house arrest ?
"The pilots will initially run for 12 months. After that the Government will decide whether to extend the use of tracking to the whole of England and Wales"
This "technology pilot" will not realistically test either the technology or the back end response systems in case of a detected "violation".
How can the Home Office justify making such a decision on the basis of such a small scale trial with a tiny number of offenders, less than 120 out of the 120,000 of offenders released from prison or the courts each year ?
Why is 12 months considered to be a suitable time period ? Presumably many of the offenders would need to be monitored for much longer periods than this ?
Why are there no plans for a larger scale pilot project before a full deployment is sanctioned ?
It would be criminally irresponsible for the Government to proceed with an extension of this form of electronic tagging and the consequent refusal to build and staff more prisons on the basis of this statistically meaningless project.
Opposition, what opposition ?
Unfortunately, the people who should be opposing Blunkett's plans also, also seem to be ignorant about this technology:
Liberty "no objections in principle".
Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten
"This technology could be a real step forward both for public protection and for public confidence in community sentences."
Conservative party Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve
"Mr Grieve said: "We welcome this and point out that the Conservative Party suggested the use of satellite technology to track convicted paedophiles back in 2002. We are glad the government is belatedly getting its act together."