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cell phones

Cell phone tracking was a key element in a late night Farmington, Missouri shootout straight out of a TV crime drama.

The shootout ended in the wounding on Deputy and the death of the suspect who was pronounced dead on the scene.

The entire ordeal started at 12:07 AM when bail bonding agents contacted the police. The suspect, who was unnamed, was barricaded inside an apartment building and was armed with a firearm.

As a result of the call, three policemen were dispatched to the scene. Upon arriving they saw the suspect fleeing with the bail bondsmen in pursuit. The suspect fired a single shot at this time, but did no injure anyone.

The suspect was lost in the pursuit. It was at this time that one of the officers on the scene reached out to AT&T to get what Farmington Police Chief Rick Baker described as a “ping” of the suspects cell phone.

From the reports we found it was unclear what information police had to supply in order to track down the suspect. Did the police just give them a phone number and ask them to find it? Did they have to reveal the suspects name and ask for a position from AT&T that way? Was a judge asked to issue a court order for AT&T to divulge the information? Or was the information given willingly?

By 1:30 AM the police had heard back from AT&T that the phone was very close to a USA Drug store about a mile north of where the suspect was last seen fleeing from police. According to the Chief Baker, the position information provided by the cell phone carrier was a “pretty good coordinate.”

Police took this information and converged on the suspect in force. Upon finding the suspect police ordered him to drop his weapon. It was at this time that the suspect raised his weapon at a police officer. Gun fire erupted as police and suspect engaged in a short shootout that ended with the death of the suspect.

Here is the video of the police chief discussing the events:

What is most interesting about this case is how similar it sounds in structure to stories we see all the time in our crime dramas. They look something like third:

  • Police discover a suspect
  • Police track the suspect’s cell phone
  • Police find and confront suspect

Crime dramas universally represent cell phone tracking as extremely easy for police to do. This real life example goes to show the oversimplification of these artistic representations, but does demonstrate that police have the power to quickly track down a suspects cell phone.

Source: KSDK

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GSM Cell Phone Technology Open to Coarse Position Tracking By Third Parties

February 22, 2012

Researchers from the University of Minnesota presented a paper earlier this month detailing how a person in the know could use cheap hardware and open source software to determine what cell phone tower a GSM based cell phone is using. This could conceivably give criminals, governments, and businesses access to rough position without having to [...]

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USF Patents Reverse 911 System, Crowdsourced Crime Fighting For Cell Phones With GPS

January 30, 2012

Researchers and engineers from the University of South Florida have been awarded a patent that could see the public better informed about crime and disasters than ever before.  The patent (US8045954) covers a system that would enable governments to crowdsource crime fighting as well as laser target disaster announcements to mobile phones using a GPS [...]

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Microsoft Patents ‘Unsafe Neighborhood’ GPS Feature, Gets Tons of Flak From Interwebs

January 12, 2012

The interwebs are up in arms about what many bloggers are calling the “avoid the ghetto” feature described in a recent Microsoft GPS patent. Reaction has almost universally been negative, but does seem to vary in degrees based upon how much of the actual patent writers and commentators have actually read. For example, Ross Kenneth [...]

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Stolen Cell Phone Found By Using GPS Tracking App

January 12, 2012

A man was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property after the owner of a cell phone tracked it to a residence in Sacramento, California. According to reports from KCRA, a news station in Sacramento, the unidentified victim reported his cell phone stolen through an online reporting form but then decided to take matters [...]

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Sad Mother Pleads For Stolen Cell Phone Back, Gives Police GPS Info

January 11, 2012

Cell phones can sometimes house our most precious memories. One Florida mother is living with the reality of having these memories stolen from her and her terminally ill 3-year-old daughter. Melissa Vazquez lost her phone while out on the town with some family members on Sunday, January 8th. She was at the Passion Nightclub at [...]

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FCC Rules GPS Must Be In VoIP, Cell Phones For E911 Tracking

October 8, 2011

According to this ruling by the FCC all wireless providers and VoIP services are required to use GPS tracking technology to provide E911 services to their customers and the government. The idea behind the ruling is to create a more reliable and faster working location finding mechanism for people who are making distressed phone calls. [...]

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Religious Cell Phone App Leverages GPS Tracking To Reach The Faithful

November 4, 2010

It is important to remember that people are not only using GPS in cell phones to make money or to keep people safe. They are also using it to improve their religious devotion. The following is story coming out of an Asian Roman Catholic news agency: As the smartphone phenomenon gathers pace, religious groups in [...]

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Cell Phone Tracking Catches Teenage Burglars

November 4, 2010

Cell phones are incredibly powerful devices for people seeking to protect themselves and their families. It, however, is not as well known that cell phones are also great devices to get stolen – especially if they have GPS tracking application installed in them! Check out this news story: A parental tracking device in a cell [...]

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29 Lost Hikers Saved With Cell Phones and GPS Tracking

October 22, 2010

Thank God for cell phones. That is at least what 29 hikers from a Chinese Bible Church from Boston are thinking after they got lost in New Hampshire’s Blue Trail at Mount Belknap. What is interesting about this story is not that the cell phones were instrumental in the rescue efforts – that is old [...]

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