For years, people have been using GPS tracking for a lot more than just receiving turn-by-turn directions. Are you curious about what your cat is up to at night while you’re fast asleep? Just put a GPS tracker on its collar and let technology take care of the rest. Are you sick and tired of losing your keys all the time and finally want to do something about it? Put a GPS tracker on your key ring and, with the right app by your side, you’ll never lose track of them again.

scotland police

Law enforcement agencies around the world have also been using GPS technology to combat a wide range of issues in our society. Case in point: Officials in Scotland are using GPS tracking in association with alcohol testing to help keep an eye on offenders in the area. Their efforts, which are already a tremendous success, are directly responsible for bringing conviction rates for repeat offenders to a 17-year low.

GPS Tracking and Scotland: Fighting a Problem

The use of GPS technology is just one small but essential part of a much larger whole. People who have been convicted of alcohol-related offenses, particularly driving offenses, can be ordered to have their sweat tested for alcohol limits by the Scottish government as a part of their rehabilitation program. This, coupled with the GPS-tagging technology, helps keep an eye on their whereabouts. This is being done in an effort to avoid rushing repeat offenders to jail as the only option. Given the major declines across the board and the positive results with young people in particular, the program already seems to be working.

A representative from the Scottish government, Michael Matheson, said that there are always going to be crimes in which jailing someone is the most logical course of action to take. However, so many offenses — particularly those involving drugs or alcohol — need to embrace a much more reasonable response for long-term success. International research has long suggested that merely jailing someone is NOT the best way to prevent the person from offending again in the future.

In these cases, GPS tracking is less about being able to prove whether someone did or did not go to a bar but more about opening up new opportunities to help address the root cause of the issue at hand. A criminologist from Stirling University, Hannah Graham, said that GPS tracking helps to closely monitor someone and offer targeted support in the days or weeks leading up to their trial, all while continuing to guarantee public safety as a result. It isn’t about creating a situation in which committing a crime is impossible — this is woefully short-sighted on the best of days. Instead, it’s about offering the necessary rehabilitation to foster an environment in which an offender must leave crime behind.

It’s important to note that the alcohol problem in Scotland is a serious one. According to a group called Alcohol Focus Scotland, alcohol is a major contributing factor in more than half of the violent crimes across the country. The use of GPS tracking is not concerned about jailing someone until they no longer have a drinking problem; instead, it offers the offender the support they need to address those problems head on.

This is also not the first time that GPS tracking technology has been used in law enforcement in Scotland. A pilot program was instituted in recent years focused on both child sex offenders and in specific immigration cases. Similar programs are being carried out across the United Kingdom as well. The Scottish government indicated that they were so pleased with the results thus far that they have already begun to study how to roll out GPS tagging to a much wider audience. They indicated that they would like to get to a point that it is used in more than just cases involving specific offenses, such as drug and DUI convictions.