Williams Lake city council votes to ‘inject’ prolific and high-risk offenders with GPS tracking devices
The city of Williams Lake voted unanimously to “inject” prolific and high-risk offenders with GPS tracking devices on Tuesday night.
Councillor Scott Nelson, who put forward the motion, says the “injectible” trackers would allow 24/7, year-round surveillance of the hardcore criminals that cause the most anxiety for his community.
Last month, the B.C. government announced the implementation of a new tracking system that uses a GPS ankle bracelet to track an offender’s location.
But Nelson says the bracelets can have a number of issues and they want to implement more consistent surveillance.
The motion comes in the wake of an armed robbery at a skate park on Feb. 22.
A group of six men approached a young boy and took his BMX bike at gunpoint.
The entire incident was caught on video.
“The prolific offenders are the ones that cause havoc in the community,” says Nelson. “It’s the core group, the 20 per cent that create 80 per cent of problems in our community. Those are the ones we are targeting.”
The 2013 crime statistics showed Williams Lake tops the list of B.C. communities when it comes to violent crime severity.
“We are tired of the criminals trying to run people out of our community,” Nelson adds.
He says while there might be privacy concerns around injectible GPS trackers, they have to look out for what is in the best interest of their community, where crime is the number one issue.
Mayor Walter Cobb announced at Tuesday night’s meeting there could be as many as 20 prolific offenders and 100 high-risk offenders in the community of just 14,000 people.
“For the privacy of few who don’t even believe in law, we need to use the technology to the benefit of the society as a whole,” Nelson says.
The constitutionality of an “injectible” tracker
Williams Lake RCMP Inspector Milo MacDonald says he does not think injectible GPS trackers would be possible to implement under existing laws, adding the motion is more of a reflection of just how frustrated the community is with the levels of crime.
MacDonald says they have 13 people on their prolific offender list, seven of whom are incarcerated. The remaining are being monitored.
He adds the city is trying very hard to provide the RCMP with support and coming up with innovative solutions, and they appreciate the effort.
Micheal Vonn, Policy Director at BC Civil Liberties Association, says the idea is a non-starter simply because a municipality doesn’t have the authority to shape criminal law to administer the procedure.
“We can certainly understand if they feel helpless and want to do something, but saying that you want to do something does not mean you have the authority to do it,” she says. “We don’t inject people with trackers. We have a very limited ability to require a tracking device. To mandate that people’s bodies be turned into tracking devices is something Canadians have no experience with and it would be difficult to understand how such a program could be found constitutional.”
Vonn says in concept, an injectable GPS monitor would allow authorities to make surmises about someone’s personal life based on who they visit or what medical practitioners they go to.
“It’s a highly invasive form of surveillance,” she says. “This is not the way we are going to go about this.”
The Williams Lake city council does not have an implementation date for the project so far, but they are planning to discuss the idea with their provincial and federal counterparts. Nelson says the idea will also be floated at the upcoming NCLGA and UBCM meetings.
“We think that this is a big changer that will assist the RCMP and give them more tools in their toolbox to fight crime,” says Nelson. “What we’ve been doing so far doesn’t solve the problem.”