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Parolee shooting spurs GPS tracking concerns

June 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Is the state's new way of saving money putting lives at risk? That's a fear expressed by many now that the tracking devices on hundreds of paroled gang members are being turned off. Hundreds of criminals who were being monitored are now going untracked. And at least one of them is already suspected of committing a violent crime.

The state uses a variety of tools to monitor parolees after they are released from prison. Now the state can't afford one technology to keep an eye on hundreds of gang members throughout the state.

In a home-invasion robbery in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova last week, a homeowner and two criminals engaged in a gun battle that resulted in serious injuries for all.

The incident highlights the fear many Californians have with the state's budget cuts to public safety: more crime.

Over the last few months, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been cutting GPS tracking devices off of half of the 950 gang members on parole as a way to save $6 million by July 1.

After slashing jobs and other expenses, the agency says there's nowhere else to cut.

"We can cut on the side of the gang monitors, but we cannot cut on the side of the sex-offender monitors because those are mandated by law. And so we are doing what we can within the confines of the rules and the laws and the budget that we have left," said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the department.

One of primary suspect in the Rancho Cordova shooting is Lawrence "Poopie" Jackio, who local investigators believe had his GPS anklet removed just one day before the shooting. Up until then, the Corrections Dept. says, he seemed to be following his parole terms.

Residents living near the shooting are upset over the latest cost-cutting move.

"The first thing he did was like, 'OK, what can I do to get into trouble?' And what did he do? He robbed someone's house, got shot," said James Lindley, a concerned local resident

"It's very nerve-wracking to know that they're just letting people run the streets," said Kassandra Smith, another local resident.

But the Corrections Dept. says there's no way to know how Jackio would have behaved had the GPS monitor stayed.

On a risk scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being the lowest risk, he was given a 2. But he also had a job and a steady residence, a rarity among parolees.

"But nothing outside of keeping someone in prison is failsafe for keeping them from committing another crime," said Patino.

Crime-victims groups worry this is just the beginning of more gang-involved incidents.

"We should be outraged that our safety is going to be jeopardized because the state needs to save a buck," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance.

Democrats want to keep temporary tax hikes going to avoid more cuts to public safety. Republicans say, make the cuts somewhere else to fund public safety.

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