SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Springfield’s mayor and police commissioner are on a mission to fix what they say is a broken bail system.
They’ve documented several alleged criminals reoffending while wearing electronic monitoring bracelets. In some cases, with dire consequences. In the spring of 2018, authorities discovered a true house of horrors in Springfield.
Accused serial killer Stewart Weldon was out on bail, wearing a GPS tracker, facing several charges – including assault with a dangerous weapon, when he cut off his bracelet and went off the grid for months. He was arrested during a traffic stop.
A woman in his car told police she had been beaten and was being held against her will. Police would later discover the bodies of three women in and around Weldon’s mother’s home at 1333 Page Boulevard in Springfield.
Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood cited nearly a dozen local cases, including a crime where a man was critically injured in his Roosevelt Avenue home after being burned and tortured. Police say the suspect, Dushane Simon, 21, was wearing a GPS bracelet during that home invasion.
Clapprood says people are committing serious violent felonies while on a GPS bracelet and the Massachusetts Probation Service needs to do more.
“I’m sure they’re doing their due diligence. I’m sure the courts are trying, but something has to change. And someone has to realize that we’re letting violent offenders out on these GPS bracelets to continue their crimes,” Clapprood said.
An estimated 12,000 to 14,000 individuals in Massachusetts are on a court-ordered GPS tracking device on any given year. In a written statement to the 22News I-Team, a representative with the Massachusetts Probation Service says on average, their agency receives about 700 alerts each year associated with strap related issues.
These alerts could result from the individual intentionally cutting or tampering with the strap. However, most often the alert is the result of an accidental disruption to the strap integrity. In either case, the alert and the response is immediate. Actual cut straps constitute a very small percentage.Coria Holland, Communications Director at the Massachusetts Probation Service
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno feels GPS bracelets are acceptable for non-violent offenders, but not for those who put others in danger.
“Would you accept this type of violent repeat criminal behavior to be on your street, next to your home, affecting your families, your neighborhood your city or town? I say not,” Mayor Sarno said.
Mayor Sarno and Commissioner Clapprood want lawmakers in Boston to take action.
“People need to be incarcerated until their trials. People need to be held accountable. And the GPS bracelet system as it’s set up currently is not working,” Clapprood said.
Governor Charlie Baker is also on record as saying he wants to change the current bail system.
Right now, it’s a misdemeanor if you tamper with an electronic monitoring bracelet. Baker is proposing to increase the charge to a felony.