CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police are still looking for the man who cut his electronic monitoring bracelet off just before he was due to appear in court Thursday.
Bernard Smith, 37, was arrested on armed robbery charges in October 2011 and was issued the monitor in November after posting $91,000 bond. Shaw is the sixth person this year to remove the monitoring device.
Officers say that number is about average. According to CMPD records, each year roughly one to two percent of all people wearing the device will remove it. So far, in 2012 a little more than 600 people have been forced to wear an ankle bracelet while out on bond awaiting trial.
The bracelet, manufactured by Omnilink Solutions, consists of a plastic, electronic GPS monitor attached to a band made of rubber and fiber optic sensors. He admitted they are easy to cut off, but said federal safety regulations prevent anyone from putting a device on a person that cannot be removed.
“If an offender wants to get this device off, they will,” said Sgt. Dave Scheppegrell. “But within 10 seconds of cutting or stretching the band, we receive an alert. Often times the offender has already run away by the time we can respond, but we usually catch them within 48 hours.”
Records show, with the exception of Smith who is still on the run, all of the people who cut monitors off in 2012 were apprehended in that timeframe.
Sgt. Scheppegrell noted nearly every person wearing a device has been charged with a crime and is out on bond.
“They would be out there on the street with or without a monitor. So if they are out there, we would rather them wear a monitor. This way we can track what they are doing and where they are going. We know if they are obeying curfew, if it’s been set. And if another crime is committed, we know if the person was there,” explained Sgt. Scheppegrell. “The monitors have helped us solve crimes committed by offenders while out on bond.”
He said in certain in cases, like Bernard Smith’s case, electronic monitoring is not the preferred method.
"The police department would rather Mr. Smith be in jail. But he is innocent until proven guilty, and the court afforded him a bond."
Charlotte citizen watchdog organization Court Watch believes that is the problem.
"Judges and magistrates are setting bonds too low. People are being allowed back out on the street too easily," said Marcus Philemon of Court Watch. "The police wouldn't have to keep up with where hundreds of people are each day if the courts made it harder to bond out of jail."
Tampering with an electronic monitoring bracelet is a crime. It can be classified as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the current charges against the offender. Court Watch would like for it to only be classified as a felony.