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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  Second Act
ankle-monitor
Police Chief Aric Wheeler is working on a pilot program to outfit convicted burglars with GPS-enabled ankle monitors, such as this one by GPS Monitoring Solutions of California.

Second Act

Probationers commit nearly half of 2010 burglaries

March 9, 2011, 1:00 am

Nike Factory Store has its heightened security measures to thank for enjoying a break-in-free 2011 so far, manager Brad Goldberg tells SFR.


Last year, the store, which is located in the Fashion Outlets of Santa Fe mall off Cerrillos Road, was broken into three times. No arrests have been made in connection with the incidents; the store lost apparel each time when the front windows were broken. 


As SFR previously reported, Santa Fe had 38 more burglaries last year than in 2009. According to SFR research, 48 percent of the people who were indicted for burglary or aggravated burglary last year in 1st Judicial District Court had received only probation for a previous burglary conviction, or were out on bond awaiting trial on a pending burglary charge. 


“Anybody who is a repeat offender, I feel like the punishment should be increased if they’ve been an offender a second or third time,” Goldberg says.


First Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Pfeffer says the District Attorney’s Office typically presents a plea deal with only probation for first-time burglary offenses. Residential burglaries are a third-degree felony, with sentence ranges of zero to three years in prison; sentences for vehicle burglary max out at 18 months.


“It’s true that some people need to be off the streets,” Pfeffer says. “I consider a burglary, especially a residential burglary, to be a very serious offense and, while a lot of people are given probation on a first offense, I think they have to be somewhat on a leash on probation.”


Santa Fe Police Chief Aric Wheeler says he is starting a pilot project in cooperation with the District Attorney’s Office that will use GPS monitoring ankle bracelets on convicted burglars. While electronic monitoring reports if an offender leaves his or her house, the GPS system would create a record of everywhere the offender goes. Data from a convicted burglar could theoretically be matched up with the location of a burglary. The data could help solve crimes, and hopefully deter probationers from reoffending, Wheeler says. 


Santa Fe already uses GPS to monitor sex offenders. SFPD will pick five individuals on whom to test the burglar monitoring program, Wheeler says.


“Hopefully, we’ll see a decrease in these crimes,” he adds.


Matthew DeMichele, a research associate at the American Probation and Parole Association, says the relatively new technique of GPS tracking can’t work a miracle.


“The misnomer about location tracking is that just because we simply know where individuals are doesn’t mean we know what they’re doing, or [that we’re] able to prevent them from committing crime,” he says. “I don’t believe GPS in and of itself is necessarily going to change behavior.”


DeMichele says, ideally, individual offenders would be assessed for their risks of reoffending and then managed accordingly, with a low probationer-to-probation-officer ratio for high-risk probationers. New Mexico Probation and Parole Division didn’t return a call inquiring about ratios before press time.


“We can’t expect probation and parole to take recidivism to zero, just like we don’t expect doctors to take cancer to zero,” DeMichele says.


Even though many of these offenders aren’t sentenced to prison, they have often been in jail pre-sentencing or for previous offenses, and know what they’re risking when they choose to reoffend, Pfeffer says. 


“It’s very difficult to change an individual who is willing to do a crime such as that,” Pfeffer says. “Whether you can change that personality, I think that’s a big issue that goes to how you can rehabilitate a person in any event. I think there comes a time when they should be given rehab if it’s a drug issue.”


Marilyn Bane, president of the Santa Fe Neighborhood Network, says she believes treatment of offenders’ underlying problems is the key to making Santa Fe safer. Wheeler says economic struggles and substance abuse problems are often at the root of these types of crimes, but trying to fix those problems requires a lot of resources.


For burglary victims, it’s clear that the current approach is insufficient.


“These people who are repeat offenders are obviously people [the criminal justice system] didn’t work for the first time, so obviously their sentences should be increased,” Goldberg says. “It is disappointing—just as with anything with repeat offenders, with DWIs—it’s disappointing to see that our judicial system isn’t working, not that it isn’t right, but it isn’t working for everybody.”

 

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