CHICAGO (CBS) – At present, around 100 people accused of murder in Cook County are not behind bars, but rather under electronic surveillance at home.
They are only confined by a GPS bracelet around their ankle, according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
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As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, Dart spoke openly on Monday about some flaws in the electronic surveillance system – as concerns grow over an increase in violent crime in the city.
After an armed confrontation on the streets, Chicago police shot dead Klevontaye White in July. White was wanted after escaping electronic surveillance of his home.
White has faced more than a dozen counts of aggravated sexual assault, police say.
At least one of the men who shot 7-year-old Jaslyn Adams at a West Side McDonald’s in April last year was under electronic surveillance, or EM.
“Home surveillance is not a program for people accused of violent offenses,” Dart said.
But Dart, whose department is responsible for keeping tabs on electronic surveillance-ordered courts, said the majority of the roughly 2,600 defendants currently assigned to him face violent crimes.
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“Seventy-five to 80% of my home watch employees are charged with a violent offense,” Dart said. “I have about 100 people on house watch who are charged with murder.”
In an online discussion, Dart said most don’t reoffend while in EM. But in 2017, reforms limited the use of cash bonds, increasing the number of violent offenders under house arrest.
The sheriff said the chief justice’s office also runs a surveillance program, but the number of defendants enrolled in that program is a mystery to Dart.
“The idea of having two systems for me is illogical,” Dart said. “I literally have no idea how many people are in this program.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has officially called on Chief Justice Tim Evans that the most violent offenders be locked up awaiting trial and not allowed out with bracelets.
“Cook County’s EM system is fundamentally broken in a way that makes our city unsafe,” Lightfoot said.
The chief justice rejected the idea, saying in part: “The mayor’s proposal appears to require that defendants facing certain allegations be held guilty until their innocence is proven.”
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Sheriff Dart said Cook County’s electronic surveillance program is the largest in the country. Once again, the Chief Justice and Sheriff stressed that the majority of those in house arrest do not commit additional crimes while awaiting trial.