Blunkett announces 'spy in the sky' satellites to track criminals

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The Independent Online

Sex offenders, wife beaters, and prolific criminals are to have their movements tracked by satellite, David Blunkett is to announce today.

Sex offenders, wife beaters, and prolific criminals are to have their movements tracked by satellite, David Blunkett is to announce today.

The "spy in the sky" technology will allow police to pinpoint the location of offenders to within a few metres, 24 hours a day. Up to 120 offenders in three police force regions ­ Greater Manchester, West Midlands, and Hampshire ­ are to be fitted with the tracking devices in a year-long pilot study.

The scheme is aimed at people convicted of sex crimes and domestic violence and persistent offenders. Criminals who have served part of their sentence and have been released from jail on licence could be fitted with the tags, as well as those placed on home curfew.

The scheme is aimed at offenders whom police and probation believe are likely to contact victims, such as their wives, or go to places where children are found, such as schools, or visit parts of a town they are banned from because of previous antisocial behaviour.

A device the size of a video cassette is fitted on a belt around the offender's waist with a second tag around the ankle. The larger monitor sends a signal to a satellite which is bounced back to a private security control room where the subject will be tracked on an electronic map.

The smaller ankle device monitors the larger tracking box so that the offender cannot simply remove it.

It is already used in the United States and uses a satellite global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint the location of offenders. They cost from £3 to £7 a day depending on whether the offender is tracked continuously or if a record of their movement are examined at the end of a 24 hour period.