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Voluntary offender tagging scheme continues to prove a success

28 April 2017
Dorset Police reports multiple successes from a scheme where offenders voluntarily wear tags in a bid to stop re-offending. 

The voluntary offender tagging scheme provides offenders with the opportunity to be fitted with a GPS tag for an agreed period while they are on probation or following their release from prison. 

Initially launched as a trial in Dorset three years ago, the scheme is now regularly used as one of several offender management tools where co-operating offenders are fitted with the tag to discourage them from re-offending. Originally reserved for prolific and other priority offenders, now any offender may be considered for the scheme.

60 offenders have been fitted with tags since the scheme has been running and only seven have reoffended whilst wearing the tag. In all but one of those cases the tag evidence prompted a guilty plea and in one case that went to trial, the tag evidence secured a conviction. 

The monitoring tags are fixed to the offender’s ankle and record the wearer’s position 24 hours a day. They can be used to enforce exclusion zones such as a particular address or a number of locations such as town centres. If the user enters a prohibited zone, Dorset Police’s Integrated Offender Management (IOM) Unit is notified so that officers can take appropriate action. Curfews can also be monitored in a similar way, alleviating the need for physical checks to be conducted.

Offenders may also choose to volunteer for the scheme to stop false allegations or to prove that they have not been involved when a crime has taken place. Turnaround IOM Offender Manager Detective Constable, Carl Wooff, said: “This is a really positive scheme for those who are serious about trying to break the cycle of reoffending. 

“Offenders can often find that people around them don’t believe they can change and this is an opportunity for them to build trust and prove they are actually making an improvement. The tag also acts as a deterrent to stop temptation or to prevent their previous associates from trying to persuade them back into crime.

“Increased reassurance that an individual is not offending is also provided by the tags, which then allows police and partner agencies to focus resources appropriately. They also provide an opportunity to report positive behaviour and promote constructive interactions with offenders, who generally respond well to being able to demonstrate the changes they are making.”

The tagging initiative is generally provided to offenders who have a disproportionately negative impact on communities from committing crimes such as theft and burglary. As well as deterring offending, in a few cases where bail conditions have been breached, evidence from the tags can help in court, saving the criminal justice system time and money. 

One of the tags is currently being used by a convicted burglar who has been convicted of more than 80 offences. Currently out on license from prison, he has been wearing the tag for nine months and in this time has kept away from crime. 

The ex-offender was keen to share his story to encourage others to make use of the scheme, but he does not want to be named so that he can continue to change his lifestyle and seek work. He said: “When I was released from prison I was given the opportunity to wear a GPS tracker tag. I volunteered to wear the tag because as I get older I regret a lot of my past decisions and I genuinely want to turn my life around for the better. 

“I think the tags are a really great idea and have been really positive for me. Previously I have often been tempted back into crime or persuaded by my friends. But when I am wearing the tag and people try to talk me into doing something I shouldn’t I can say I can’t get involved as I have a tag, and then they leave me alone.

“My licence ends in May but I have already asked to keep the tag for longer and this has been approved. I am working hard to change my life for the better so I want to ensure I am in a really good place before I come off the tag so there is no chance I reoffend and commit crime again.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “This scheme represents part of a more sustainable approach to dealing with repeat offenders. Voluntary tagging ensures that individuals agree to take responsibility for their own offending and reconsider the impact of their behaviour. 

“If offenders are genuinely committed to changing, we should support their rehabilitation and encourage their reintegration into the community. As the above testimony demonstrates, tagging can play a valuable role in this process. 

“In the 2015/16 ‘Your Dorset, Your Police, Your View survey’, 80% of residents said they wanted the Force to actively support rehabilitation. This is no doubt a reflection of the overall benefits for local people when ex-offenders are able to contribute to the community and ultimately, crime is reduced.

“Imposing a tag as a condition of bail is currently not permitted. The early evidence indicates that this is an area worthy of further consideration.”

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