electronic monitoring

More Than 80 Guns Found in Homes of Individuals on Electronic Monitoring This Year, Cook County Sheriff's Office Says

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The Cook County Sheriff's Office says deputies have recovered more than 80 firearms so far this year while searching the homes of individuals who are on electronic monitoring.

There are roughly 2,300 individuals on electronic monitoring as they await trial in Cook County, according to the sheriff's office. All sign a contract agreeing they won't have guns, drugs or other contraband in their homes while participating in the program. And because they are technically still in custody, their homes are subject to searches without a warrant, known as compliance checks.

"We're looking for anything they shouldn't have. Large amounts of narcotics, firearms, things of that nature," Sgt. Carl Price explained while en route to a compliance check at a home on Chicago's West Side last month. He noted that all individuals on electronic monitoring understand that deputies can legally search their residence at any time.

From the beginning of the year through June 1, the sheriff's office said its deputies conducted 69 compliance checks, finding contraband during 60. A total of 84 firearms were found at 39 residences - more than half of the searches, authorities said.

"If this type of display doesn't drive home to people that home monitoring is not the right type of confinement for certain types of people, I don't know what will," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said, gesturing to the collection of weapons recovered during the searches so far this year.

Of the 39 individuals re-arrested after weapons were found in their homes, 27 were originally awaiting trial on electronic monitoring for weapons-related charges, according to the sheriff's office.

"So already charged with a crime of violence," Dart said. "We're going into houses, and we're coming out with guns like this."

The sheriff's office complains that at least part of the reason is a new law giving detainees two days of free movement where they aren't monitored even though they are still wearing an electronic bracelet.

"They have access to go places that they probably couldn't go before the essential movement, to obtain things that they shouldn't have," Price said.

In actuality, 40 have been charged with committing crimes while out on those free movement days since the policy took effect at the beginning of the year, and two have been fatally shot.

But for anyone on electronic monitoring, having firearms is strictly forbidden - though the sheriff's teams conducting these checks continue to find guns.

Last month, the officers paid a visit to the home 18-year-old Jonathon Soto shared with his mother, both on electronic monitoring.

Body camera video shows the officers searching every cabinet, every closet and under every bed. The footage shows one officer pulling a bag of ammunition out of a closet, and in another room, a handgun from under the furnace.

"We found a Glock 19 pistol attached with a device called a switch which makes the firearm fire fully automatic," Price explained after the search.

Both mother and son were taken into custody, though Soto insisted he was innocent, proclaiming during his arrest, "I'm not going to get in trouble for something I did not do."

Soto was on electronic monitoring for a gun charge and now faces a new charge of unlawful use of a weapon. He is scheduled to appear in court next week. The sheriff's office said the Cook County State's Attorney's office did not approve new charges against Soto's mother in connection with the compliance check, though both were returned to Cook County Jail.

These visits are not random - the sheriff's office says they only check individuals who they have reason to believe may not be complying with the rules.

Dart has long maintained that Cook County judges are releasing people on electronic monitoring who should not be part of the program - and that his office is left with an unmanageable task. He argues that the only reason his officers haven't found more guns is because they don't have the manpower to conduct more searches.

"I have zero doubt that if we had double the amount of people on the street, that we'd be finding double the amount of guns," Dart said, reiterating, "I have no doubt. Zero doubt."

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