Kelsey Smith Act would help locate crime victims through cell phone technology

(NASHVILLE, TN), March 8, 2012 – Legislation that would help law enforcement in locating a missing person believed to be the victim of a crime has been approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.  Senate Bill 2413, sponsored by Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), requires wireless providers to “ping” the victim’s cell phone at the request of law enforcement authorities to help locate the missing person when there is sufficient information to believe there is a risk or threat of death or serious physical harm. 

The “Kelsey Smith Act” is named after an 18-year old Kansas woman who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in 2007.  The tragedy resulted in a nationwide movement by her parents, Greg and Missey Smith, and other advocates to ensure that law enforcement authorities can receive assistance from a cell phone provider to help find the missing person.

Current law only allows emergency 911 personnel or law enforcement authorities to obtain a ping location on a cell phone if the call was made to 911 initially.  Any other request requires a warrant, which may take days to obtain.   In Kelsey Smith’s case, nearby surveillance video showed there was reason to believe she been abducted, but since she did not dial 911, her location was not released by her cell phone provider despite pleas from her family and law enforcement officials.  After four days, the technology was used that pinpointed the location of her cell phone and her body was found within 45 minutes.

“This is a common sense law to give law enforcement the tools they need to protect crime victims,” said Senator McNally. “I cannot imagine the frustration of this young woman’s family and the police in trying to get this information.  The first 24 hours in cases of abduction are critical.  This legislation ensures that there are no legal obstacles that bar police from getting the information they need when there is risk of death or serious injury. ”

Currently five states, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and New Hampshire, have passed the Kelsey Smith Act.  Tennessee, Hawaii, Missouri and Washington, D.C. also have the legislation under consideration this year.

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