Tech could keep Cana­di­ans safer from vi­o­lent of­fend­ers

Edmonton Sun - - COMMENT - mark TOWHEY [email protected] @towhey

Du­vel Hib­bert was out on bail await­ing trial on drug and breach of bail charges, when he was shot and killed in a gang­land slay­ing at a Toronto night­club in 2015. Po­lice say he was tar­geted. Not so, as an in­no­cent woman was also killed and three oth­ers in­jured in the at­tack. Had Hib­bert not been out on bail, on charges of breach­ing pre­vi­ous bail con­di­tions, per­haps all five of them would be alive and well today.

Fri­day, Toronto’s po­lice chief Mark Saun­ders said 53 peo­ple ar­rested on firearms charges in Au­gust and Septem­ber were re­leased on bail, then re-ar­rested on bail for an­other of­fence. Of those, 24 were re­leased on bail a sec­ond time.

Canada’s bail laws do a good job pro­tect­ing the rights of the ac­cused. As they should. But, they do a lousy job pro­tect­ing Cana­di­ans from vi­o­lent crime. There is a bet­ter way. Ev­ery­one out on bail, while charged with a vi­o­lent of­fence, should wear a Gps-lo­ca­tion mon­i­tor. This way, po­lice would know when they breach their bail con­di­tions by go­ing some­where or meet­ing some­one they shouldn’t. Eas­ier to find, too. Just like TV.

Un­for­tu­nately, such mon­i­tors are rarely used in Canada be­cause they’re ex­pen­sive and of­ten don’t work at all like TV.

I naively as­sumed lo­ca­tion mon­i­tors were used for peo­ple who might breach their bail con­di­tions. Not so — they’re nor­mally re­served for wealthy in­di­vid­u­als who can af­ford to pay for the ex­pen­sive tech­nol­ogy them­selves rather than sit in jail.

Seems like the an­kle mon­i­tor is on the wrong foot.

Most mon­i­tors aren’t that help­ful. Some are sim­ple ra­dio trans­mit­ters linked to a re­ceiver in the sus­pect’s home. When the per­son moves out of range, a mon­i­tor­ing ser­vice is no­ti­fied the per­son is no longer where they should be. But, not where they are.

Canada is a world leader in tech, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. Surely, we can put some of our high-per­for­mance brains to work on this prob­lem.

Com­pa­nies rou­tinely set up elec­tronic “geo-fences” — inside a shop­ping district, for ex­am­ple — and tar­get cell­phones within that area for spe­cific ad­ver­tis­ing mes­sages. A few steps out­side the zone, you get noth­ing. The tech in­volved is rou­tine.

We can do the same for those on bail or house ar­rest. A cel­lu­lar SIM card in a hard­ened case se­curely at­tached to a per­son’s leg, could tell a cen­tral server ex­actly where it is at any time. The GPS driv­ing app Waze works this way — al­though it’s not locked to your leg. When it crosses a bound­ary, author­i­ties could be alerted.

Mod­ern AI could de­tect un­usual move­ments, pre­dict a user’s des­ti­na­tion when a mon­i­tor is dis­abled, or alert when two or more vi­o­lent of­fend­ers meet, etc.

This wouldn’t be cheap. But, it’s surely cheaper than in­ves­ti­gat­ing, pros­e­cut­ing, try­ing and in­car­cer­at­ing some­one who com­mits a sec­ond mur­der while on bail for the first one.

As a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive, I want gov­ern­ment to spend on this tech­nol­ogy to make Cana­di­ans safer.

The feds could fund the re­search and set up mon­i­tor­ing cen­tres across the coun­try. Prov­inces could buy the hard­ware.

Slap one of these mon­i­tors on ev­ery­one re­leased on bail for vi­o­lent of­fences … or on house ar­rest … or on pa­role from prison … or away from hos­pi­tal on a tem­po­rary pass while NCR.

I know I’d sleep a lot more soundly at night.

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