County to change system after 13 Investigates criminals skirting GPS monitoring

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County commissioners are working to fix gaps in how it supervises accused criminals just two weeks after 13 Investigates revealed a system that allows some defendants to go up to a week before getting GPS ankle monitors while out on bond.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved developing a plan "to transition the secure bond pretrial supervision from Community Supervision & Corrections to Pretrial Services."

RELATED: 13 Investigates violent criminals skirting GPS monitoring system

Harris County Community Services & Corrections Department currently supervises defendants on surety bonds.

If an accused criminal is determined to be poor and a judge orders GPS monitoring, Harris County taxpayers pay for it. The device is almost always affixed to someone's leg the day it is ordered. If the defendant can afford a surety bond (usually through a bondsman), the courts expect you to pay for your own GPS monitoring.

In a February 11 report, 13 Investigates revealed case after case where accused violent criminals are told to get GPS monitors, but don't comply. Other suspects pick up the battery-operated devices, but don't charge them. Once the battery dies, the suspects go unmonitored, sometimes for weeks, before getting caught.

We also found cases where alleged criminals who were supposed to be monitored by a GPS committed other crimes while skirting the system.

"That's definitely crazy," Hanan Ali, the victim of a Pasadena convenience store robbery, told 13 Investigates earlier this month. "Whenever they get out of jail, they should already have the GPS monitor on their ankle before they walk out."

The suspect in Ali's case, John Segura, 27, was charged with felony aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon following the incident on Aug. 6, 2018.

Court records show Segura, a repeat violent offender, was out of jail on bond just days after he was arrested in that case. A judge ordered Segura to wear a GPS ankle monitor that would track his whereabouts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The court didn't issue Segura the monitor, instead giving him seven days to pick it up.

He didn't pick up the ankle monitor and about a month after being released on bond, he allegedly committed another aggravated robbery.

After 13 Investigates started asking questions about GPS ankle monitoring, we learned there are some solutions that can be implemented to make it better, starting with strapping ankle monitors on in jail and most prominently ending the offender pay system. The county has already started the planning for that.

"I'm very grateful for that because that's something we've been asking for since I've been in the door here," Dr. Teresa May, director of Harris County Community Supervision, told 13 Investigates earlier this month. "I hope it puts me out of the bond supervision business completely. And that's what should happen."
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