GPS Tracking Devices in Cell Phones Help Greatly in 9-1-1 Events
Thanks to the small GPS tracking devices built into most of the nearly half million cell phones on the market today, their location can be quickly determined and have proven a plus for those who have become lost or injured. When a cell phone is powered on it sends the phone’s registration information, including the phone number to the nearest cellular tower. It sends this same information every few minutes and a GPS locating device can pinpoint the phone’s location within seconds as long as it remains powered on.
In the event a person calls 9-1-1 emergency services, even if they are unable to speak or do not know their location, a GPS locator can find them and dispatch emergency help. Considering that emergency calls are placed to 9-1-1 over a quarter million times every day in the United States, the benefits of this technology should be obvious.
However, those using their cell phones for illegal purposes may not share the same love of the technology since law enforcement can also use their GPS locators to track them, as well as look at their most recent locations. While tracking the movement of criminals may seem a little too easy on the television crime dramas, the technology not only exists, it is used by many police departments as an aid to fighting crime.
Most police agencies are reluctant to give up information about how they use the technology to track and capture criminals, they concede that its use in those crime dramas is not too far off base. A 9-1-1 call center, with the right equipment will display the callers’ phone number as well as the location of the phone at the time of the call. Responders can then be sent out within 75 to 100 feet of the phone’s location at the time the call was placed.
Pre-paid cell phones, often referred to as “burn phones” do not have to provide personal information when purchased and since there is no contract, finding the owner can be more difficult, but it is not impossible for law enforcement agencies to track ownership, as well as location. Even phones without GPS technology can be located by triangulating the signal from three adjacent cell towers. Although pinpointing the phone’s location may not be as exact, it provides a starting point with which to start a search.
Privacy Issues Still in Question
The technology is waging battles with privacy rights advocates, claiming that police are violating their rights when they use GPS tracking to monitor their whereabouts. Even though wireless companies typically will not release information on their subscribers without a court issued warrant, many believe police should not have the right to track their every move. Their opinion however, may change if their phone information is used to help them during an emergency situation.