TRENTON NJ Aug 19 2014
— Veteran private eye and bounty hunter Robert Clark is ready for New Jersey’s new bail rules with technology for tracking a suspect’s every move between arrest and appearance in court.
Clark is convinced the answer to jails clogged with non-violent types awaiting trial is letting them out wearing monitoring devices that tell on them if they break release rules set by a bail bondsman or the courts.
He started Offender Management Solutions earlier this year to be on the cutting edge of America’s new ideas for saving incarceration costs while also making sure bailed-out suspects show in court when required.
“The most effective way to get defendants into court is a combination of work by bail bondsmen and electronic monitoring,’’ said Clark.
He clicked a listing on the GPS monitor in his Hamilton office and up came an aerial view of a street: “There, that guy is right where he’s supposed to be now, in drug rehab.’’
Tracking devices made the suspect an arrow that moved from rehab to job to home, as required by the terms of his release on bail.
Clark also put on the screen the 1,000-foot circle around the home of a domestic violence victim and said if her attacker shows in the green area on the map, cops will pounce.
“And the beauty of this is it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything,’’ said Clark, who already has several bailed-out suspects he’s checking on all the time in a variety of ways, including a cell phone with an app that alerts him if someone goes astray.
The suspects have to pay for his services as well as daily fees for the use of the SCRAM System monitors for tracking suspect movements, as well as alcohol use by those under court order to quit drinking.
One booze device is worn on the hip. Every time it buzzes, the wearer has 20 minutes to blow into the device, which also takes a picture and has face recognition. Another constantly measures for alcohol and drugs by reading ankle sweat and sending the information back to the Big Brother backing their freedom.
GPS to keep convicts, particularly juveniles, under house arrest has been judicial practice for at least 20 years. It is only so effective.
One such device showed a teenager leaving his Trenton house, for instance, and walking to where he’s accused of shooting and killing a gang rival.
Clark said state juvenile authorities were monitoring the teen, Tahj Law, who was 15 when he allegedly killed Devahje Bing, 19, in May 2013. But he noted that authorities did end up with evidence from the device that can be used in court against Law.
Starting out as a bondsman with Trenton’s AAA Bail Bonds 15 years ago, Clark said bondsmen and bounty hunters are vital to New Jersey’s judicial system. If operating effectively and legally, he said, the bondsman pulls together enough cash and assets from a suspect’s family and other backers to protect against a default.
If a client skips bail, Clark and other bondmen will go out as bounty hunters and haul them in. And in the future, with that record of where the suspect went while wearing the monitoring anklet, tracking down a fugitive will be that much easier.
Bail reforms signed into law last week by Gov. Chris Christie cleared the way for judges to keep violent offenders in jail on high or no bail in return for easy or no-cash bail for poor lesser offenders.
Proponents of the new law contend it’s a way to save on the cost of housing suspects awaiting trial — sometimes for years — and helps families by setting breadwinners free to work and pay their bills, including lawyer and bail costs.
Jersey’s new law also is modeled on the federal system, which also is leaning away from locking up non-violent offenders awaiting trial on constitutional grounds.
In a bail hearing on the day Christie signed the new law, defense lawyer John Furlong told a Mercer County Superior Court judge that Jersey courts should set up “pre-trail services’’ sections as in the federal system for pairing suspects with people willing to take responsibility for getting them to court.
One prosecutor scoffed at that idea, saying the federal courts in Jersey handle hundreds of cases per year, while state courts handle thousands.
You’re talking another huge court bureaucracy,’’ said the prosecutor, who noted also that Jersey’s jails are loaded now with non-violent scofflaws who have been locked up repeatedly for failing to show in court.
Whatever the future, high-tech bail bondsmen and bounty hunters like Clark, 47, are likely to be part of it, as Jersey moves away from incarceration and looks for new ways to make sure defendants show for trial.
Far from putting bail bondsmen out of business, as some feared, the new law cleared the way for an expansion of Clark’s Offender Management Services and before long, he said, probably plenty of competitors.
To set up OMS, Clark said it cost him $30,000 in monitoring equipment that he figures to be using for years to come because of crime being like death and taxes.