A fatal escape

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A fatal escape

 An ex-convict cut off his GPS-based ankle bracelet and murdered two women while on the run before turning himself in. The man, with 14 criminal convictions, committed the horrendous acts three months after he was released from prison in May after serving 15 years for sexual offenses, among others. Ten probation offices of the Justice Ministry, which keeps track on ankle-cuffed offenders, and eight police stations had attempted to hunt him down since his whereabouts became unknown, but were unsuccessful. The incident has exposed serious loopholes in the surveillance of ex-convicts under e-monitoring. Only a month ago, Justice Minister Park Beom-kye touted the electronic surveillance system as the world’s best.

The man killed a woman before he cut off the ankle bracelet at a house in Songpa District, Seoul, around 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 27. He killed another woman he was acquainted with while on the run before he turned himself in to the Songpa Police Station two days later. The second victim’s body was left in the car after she was murdered around 3 a.m., hours before he turned himself in.

The Justice Ministry and police were not aware of the homicides until he confessed. The police checked his long criminal record only after he came to the station. He could have committed more hideous acts if he had not turned himself in.

Police officers had patrolled around his home three times after the Justice Ministry notified them of his flight, but the police did not search his house. The body of the first victim had been left at his house.

The Justice Ministry did not accurately inform the police of his criminal record. The ministry said it will share more information with the police to prevent crimes of offenders cuffed with electronic devices. But simply making the bracelets tougher to make it more difficult to cut them off cannot be a fundamental solution.

Complete monitoring of ex-convicts under surveillance is not possible as there are too many variables. In 2016, an ex-convict on the run after cutting off his bracelet even gunned down a police officer.

Police and probation officers must become more aggressive in hunting down ex-convicts on the run. Jail terms must be multiplied for offenders who are usually sentenced to one year or less for breaking the GPS device. Law enforcement officers must reinforce a crackdown on crimes that was relatively relaxed amid Covid-19.
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