Editorial: Wheaton assaults highlight Cook County's shortcomings in managing ankle bracelets

  • One of three men charged in a recent pair of home invasions had two months earlier cut off his electronic home monitoring bracelet.

    One of three men charged in a recent pair of home invasions had two months earlier cut off his electronic home monitoring bracelet. Daily Herald File Photo

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 9/4/2020 9:31 AM

The crimes were horrific.

About an hour before sunrise on Sunday, Aug. 23, a Wheaton family was awakened by a strange noise.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Two family members stepped outside to investigate the source and found the patio furniture stacked outside a window.

Two men confronted them and went into the house. One entered a bedroom where two young girls slept and tried to remove the clothes from one of the girls. Her grandmother tried to stop it and was hit in the face.

Twenty minutes later, a man in Lombard was awakened in his home by two men who demanded money. When he said he had none, one of them went upstairs, grabbed the man's teenage daughter and forced her into the basement and told her to undress. She was able to break free and leave the house, but her father got into a fight with one of the men, resulting in the father and one of the two alleged assailants being shot.

The suspects took off in a stolen car, driven by a woman. The trio are responsible for both crimes, Du­Page County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said Sunday in providing the narrative. Good police and forensics work led authorities to compare blood left behind by the wounded assailant to a criminal database. The alleged shooter and the woman were rounded up the following two days.

Malik Pitts, 22, of Broadview, faces charges of attempted murder, home invasion and aggravated battery with a firearm. As do the other two. Pitts and the alleged shooter are being held without bond. Pitts is the man accused of trying to undress the girl in the Wheaton home.

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It will be a miracle if these crimes don't permanently scar the girls and their family members. What is particularly galling in this case is that Pitts had been on electronic home monitoring while awaiting trial on a charge of unlawful possession of a vehicle. He wore an electronic ankle bracelet until he decided to cut it off in June.

Yes, two months earlier.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office said the department tried to find Pitts for two shifts after he removed his monitor. They went to his home, checked hospitals and other police departments but couldn't find him.

Sadly, while the home invasions are unusual, the number of fugitives on the streets is far too common.

The Cook County Sheriff's daily log notes there are 3,259 people on electronic home monitoring and about 40,000 active warrants on people whose charges originated in Cook.

That is too great a burden for investigators to bear.

Cook County is switching from units that signal if you've strayed too far from home to GPS units, which should enable easier tracking of people on the loose. But this will be small consolation for families victimized by defendants who cut the bracelets off to skirt the system.

Clearly, the county needs to review its procedures for finding scofflaws -- and, as evidenced by the severity of the Wheaton cases, for determining what crimes qualify a defendant for getting released from jail on a monitor in the first place.

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