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Toledo councilman suggests using microchips on criminals

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    Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman has suggested using microchips on criminal offenders in place of electronic monitoring ankle bracelets to prevent the devices being removed when committing additional crimes.

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    Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman listens to debate during a March, 2018, council meeting at One Government Center in downtown Toledo. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

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    Toledo city councilman Rob Ludeman said he prefers microchipping criminal offenders in place of electronic monitoring ankle bracelets.

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    Gary Johnson

Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman on Tuesday floated the idea of microchipping criminal offenders in place of electronic monitoring ankle bracelets to prevent the devices being removed when committing additional crimes. 

“This can’t be inhumane because we do it to our pets,” he said. 

Other council members, though, balked at the idea.

WATCH: Rob Ludeman talks about the microchips

Councilman Nick Komives said after Tuesday’s meeting “there is plenty of research” that electronic monitoring is effective, and added he doesn’t believe Mr. Ludeman meant his comments to be harmful.

“As a concept, I am not particularly in favor of microchipping human beings,” Mr. Komives said. “We might find it humane for dogs because they run off, but I think there are probably a lot of moral and ethical questions that would come to mind when thinking of microchipping humans.” 

Mr. Ludeman’s suggestion came at Tueday’s agenda review meeting during a request from Toledo Municipal Court to enter into a $179,400 annual contract with Lucas County for electronic monitoring services, as an existing agreement with the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio expires June 30. 

Deputy Court Administrator Burma Stewart told council members the number of offenders on electronic monitoring has increased because of changes in sentencing policies as well as fewer jail beds available to Toledo Municipal Court.

Monitoring is often used for nonviolent or other lower-risk offenders as an alternative to incarceration, she said, adding that judges can put stricter geographic restrictions on certain people, such as perpetrators of domestic violence. 

Mr. Ludeman then offered his alternate proposal.

“I’ve seen enough shows on TV where the individual has slipped it off and they’ll go commit a crime and slip it back on,” he said. “I can’t believe it’s an inhumane thing and I’ve got to believe the technology is there. We microchip our dogs, cats, there’s got to be a way that you can put a microchip in and it can’t be removed until their sentence is served or probation is over.” 

Other council members inquired about the court’s electronic monitoring program. In a response to a question about people violating terms of their monitoring, Ms. Stewart said there were two instances last year and those people “were quickly apprehended.”

Tom Waniewski lamented repeat offenders who continue to sell drugs or commit other crimes while on electronic monitoring.

“They’re getting to the point where they are thumbing their noses at us,” he said. “The police do too hard of a job to have them back in the community. It’s not fair to the residents. Boy, if there was a way that these ankle bracelets could do more than just monitor, I’d ask you to order a couple dozen more.”

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Gary Johnson

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After the meeting, Councilman Gary Johnson said he was not in favor of Mr. Ludeman’s proposal at this point, calling it cost-prohibitive.

“It’s something I’d have to look into,”he said. “We don’t want to be Big Brother. What we want to do is make sure people are where they say they’re going to be.”

George Thomas, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, told The Blade, "That suggestion is very concerning to us. That would be pretty intrusive and probably unconstitutional."

Ruth Leonard, a co-spokesman for the Community Solidarity Response Network of Toledo, said, "Oh, I think this is completely unnecessary and inhumane to microchip a human being. You microchip pets. That's still borderline inhumane."

According to the Toledo Area Humane Society, the microchips used there do not function like a GPS tracker that can be monitored from afar, but are scanned once a lost animal is located.

“The microchip itself has no internal energy source, so it will last the life of your pet,” according to the organization’s website. “The chip is read by passing a microchip scanner over the shoulder blades of your pet.”

Tuesday’s meeting also revealed that council appears poised to again debate a series of dueling lead ordinance amendments, as Mr. Ludeman re-introduced his original 2016 legislation and Mr. Johnson indicated he had his own version in the works but was not yet ready to present it to council.

Mr. Ludeman, a longtime critic of the city’s lead-safe rental ordinance, revived his original plan that nixes the controversial dust wipe test for initial inspections and instead requires them to clear properties that previously failed a visual inspection.

City attorney Joe McNamara also asked council to amend the definition of “owner” in the law to exclusively mean the person or entity holding the title. 

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the city and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department board have said the term owner is overly broad as the law is written. They contend it could include a person with a utility services contract at a rental, or even tenants. That would mean even tenant-dwelling properties could be considered owner-occupied and therefore exempt, plaintiffs contend. 

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Linda Jennings will consider a requested preliminary injunction in the case at a hearing Friday.

Staff writer Mike Sigov contributed to this report.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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