Real-time GPS info: City, county leaders announce partnership to keep track of youth offenders

MILWAUKEE -- Under a new city-county agreement, Milwaukee Police will have real-time access to the GPS bracelet locations of juvenile offenders. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele  announced a partnership  on Thursday, May 11th between MPD and Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services "in taking an incremental step to improve public safety." The key component of the plan involves the county sharing real-time GPS information with police. When a juvenile on the bracelet violates his or her conditions, police will know where they are. "We hope to catch these young people before they commit another crime," Barrett said, "The goal is to take them back to their residence unless a new crime has been committed."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett"The goal is to take them back to their residence unless a new crime has been committed," Barrett said.

Officials noted this isn't a perfect solution. FOX6 News was the first to tell you about a 15-year-old boy whose fingerprints were found on 22 stolen vehicles over the span of four arrests and multiple group home placements.

"Believe me, I've seen some of those reports pass my desk as well, and those are ones that are extremely frustrating," Barrett said. The balance, officials said, is keeping the public safe, while not sending teens to Lincoln Hills -- the youth prison which is the subject of a federal abuse investigation -- unless there is no alternative.

Lincoln Hills School

The young repeat car thief, who we are not identifying because he's a juvenile, was recently sentenced to serve one year at Lincoln Hills. "We continue to talk to the state about a local facility that would be a secure facility that would allow us to more directly monitor the kids, do better programming," Abele said.

Officials said cooperation on GPS data sharing is a big step forward. Before, there were times police wouldn't learn of a violation until the next day.

Ashanti Hamilton

"We are gonna continue to work together and we're gonna use every platform we have in order to build the collaborations necessary to make our community safer," Ashanti Hamilton, president of the Milwaukee Common Council said. Mayor Barrett said it's also easier now for police to confront an offender when they're not in a moving vehicle, decreasing the odds of an officer having to decide whether to pursue the car and take on the inherent risk of a crash. "It can be at their buddy's house. It can be in a mall. It can be on the street," Barrett said, "So I think the element of surprise is certainly more present by having this information." In previous car theft cases, police have testified they believe GPS monitoring is a strong deterrent - so long as offenders know someone is actually tracking them. Authorities are hopeful MPD's newfound access will have a social effect; that it will make juveniles on the bracelet more comfortable saying no amid peer pressure to commit more crimes. Hamilton said this agreement will lead to further cooperation between the city and county on juvenile justice issues.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.