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Company delayed in notifying police of escape yet again, sheriff says

Company delayed in notifying police of escape yet again, sheriff says

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GARY — The Lake County sheriff is once again putting a GPS monitoring company on blast for what he says was a delay in notifying police of a detainee's escape.

The detainee, Aaron Jacob Collins, 26, was under home confinement for a drug possession charge and allowed the battery on his ankle bracelet to die, Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said. ICU Monitoring notified the Lake County Sheriff’s Department on Sunday that Collins was at large.

That notification, Martinez said, came five days after Collins failed to respond to the ICU's inquiries about his whereabouts. 

Collins is described as a white male who weighs 151 pounds and has brown hair and hazel eyes. ICU Monitoring told the sheriff's department that it was believed Collins was traveling to Indianapolis, his hometown.

Coming Sunday, ride along with Specialist Dyer as he patrols LaPorte.

As Lake County police investigated, it was discovered that Collins was issued the ankle monitor April 7 after he was charged with drug possession with a prior conviction. But on April 23, Gary officers arrested Collins at the Eden House residence at 2149 Adams St. in Gary for being in possession of a hypodermic needle, Martinez said.

Martinez said that while arresting Collins, Gary officers tried reaching ICU Monitoring to notify the company that he was in violation of his home detention agreement, but Gary police said no one answered their call.

Then at 6 p.m. April 25, Collins was released from the Gary Police Department because no formal charges had been filed against him and ICU Monitoring did not send anyone to make contact with Collins and follow up on his release, the sheriff said.

ICU Monitoring told police they sent two messages to Collins nearly six hours later to request that he call ICU immediately in order to update his address, Martinez said.

On April 26 two additional messages were sent to Collins, which asked him to confirm his scheduled movements for the day, but Collins did not respond. Then on April 28, Collins was sent another message by the monitoring company to charge his ankle monitoring device and that if he did not do so before the battery dies, he could face a felony charge of escape, police said. Again, Collins did not respond to the message.

According to court records, an arrest warrant was issued for Collins on April 28. 

Martinez said according to his GPS tracker, Collins was in Chicago that day. The sheriff said that ICU requires clients contact the company within 10 minutes of being paged or messaged.

"It took five days after Collins was released from the Gary Police Department for ICU to finally file a police report on April 30th," Martinez said.

On May 3 Lake County Sheriff’s detectives began investigating and reviewed the data from Collins' monitoring device. Investigators found that the GPS on the ankle unit tracked Collins’ from April 26 until April 29, with his last known location in Indianapolis, Martinez said.

“We should have been notified much sooner — period," Martinez said. "It’s important that the Lake County Sheriff’s Department is involved in these instances because, although I never agreed to the contract with ICU, we are still a party to that contract."

As of late, there has been contention between the Lake County Sheriff's Department and Merrillville-based ICU Monitoring. In late April, the Lake County Commissioners voted to retain ICU as the county’s contractor for electronic monitoring of pretrial detainees for another two years. Martinez has since voiced his disagreement with the decision due to past escapes between April 2019 and September 2019, as well as cost concerns. 

“ICU devices were tracking Collins’ movements for several days, but not once was the Lake County Sheriff’s Department notified there was an escape or violation of Collins’ home confinement agreement until five days after he was released from the Gary Police Department,” Martinez said. “This is deplorable. The fees ICU charges for its services are double that of a competitor we reviewed, which makes this even more unacceptable.”

Anyone with information on Collins' whereabouts should contact the Lake County Sheriff’s Department Report-A-Crime Hotline at 1-800-750-2746.

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts and investigative news. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology. 219-933-4194, anna.ortiz@nwi.com

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