NC offenders tampering with monitoring devices on the rise, officials say

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Electronic monitoring devices are used to monitor convicted criminals, but there can be deadly consequences when they’re removed.

A CBS North Carolina investigation revealed that nearly 3,500 offenders across the state are being monitored. That number just five years ago was 876.The North Carolina Department of Corrections has said that there’s been a rise in the number of convicts tampering with their devices.

Authorities are now working on ways to continue tracking offenders even if they remove their monitoring devices.

Keisha Livingston (family photo)
Keisha Livingston (family photo)

It’s been six months since Keisha Livingston was shot and killed in her Louisburg home. For Taheisha Coleman, losing her sister has made it tough to come home.

“I don’t feel the same being here, I don’t feel as safe as I once did and there are a lot of questions in my mind as to what this has become…coming home only makes it far worse,” she said.

Livingston was one of three people shot and killed at the home in March. Another woman survived by playing dead.

Darius Robinson after he was arrested (David Hurst/CBS North Carolina)
Darius Robinson after he was arrested (David Hurst/CBS North Carolina)

Police said Darius Robinson was on house arrest and took off his electronic monitoring device before committing the murders.

After a week on the run, police arrested him in Virginia.

“The fact that he was able to remove the device and no one have any contact with him or [know] his whereabouts and then to find him in Suffolk…that’s a drastic jump from where he should have been and where he was able to get,” Coleman said.

Records show that there have been nearly 800 recorded tampers on electronic monitoring devices so far this year.

Hannah Rowland oversees the monitoring program for the North Carolina Department of Corrections and she said instances like Robinson’s are extremely rare and most of the tampering incidents are triggered by wear and tear rather than an offender cutting it off.

An example of an ankle monitoring device (David Hurst/CBS North Carolina)

If there is a true tamper then law enforcement can quickly get to the offender’s last known location, Rowland said.

“No one can predict human behavior…whether you’re wearing this or not…what this will do is aid us, as well as law enforcement in having a starting point,” she said.

If an offender cuts off their ankle monitor, the company that makes the devices is immediately notified. The company then alerts officers are who are then dispatched to the area where it was removed.

“It may be a minute or two before the officer gets it, but at least we have that minute or two to know that they were here when they did it,” Rowland said.

The Department of Corrections uses ankle monitoring devices to enhance supervision. As technology improves, they plan on making the units smaller and getting them to give quicker and better information to officers that they say would lead to less tampering and more offenders completing their sentence without any problems.

For the devices the state uses, the offenders’ location is transmitted every 15 minutes and officers can also log-in to track offenders on their personal computers. Authorities said the material in the band makes it tough for offenders to cut it off but it’s possible, and even the slight tampering of the band instantly alerts authorities.

“The importance is having them successfully complete and for them to have changed their behavior so that they don’t come back to us,” Rowland said.

Offenders can be monitored in real-time on a map
Offenders can be monitored in real-time on a map

Taheisha Coleman said she hopes new technology will deter offenders from removing their devices and prevent tragedies like what her family has experienced.

“Knowing that I can’t pick up the phone and call her, can’t go by her house or send her things…it’s one of those things that now I have to visit her grave and that’s extremely hard,” she said.

At the time of the murder, Robinson was out on parole after he was released from prison in November 2015. He was convicted on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

The state is now seeking the death penalty for his role in the triple murder.

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