Police News: It’s Tough Out There
Rhinebeck, N.Y. – Police responded to a possible overdose and domestic violence call where they found a man behaving irrationally. Officers say the man became combative when they attempted to remove him from the residence, so they used a TASER to bring him under control. Shortly after receiving the blast from the TASER the suspect began to experience trouble breathing and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Phoenix, Az. – A police officer was searching a building for an armed suspect when the man suddenly rounded a corner, coming face-to-face with the officer. Both men were startled by the sudden encounter. In fact, the officer was so startled he accidentally fired his pistol, critically wounding the suspect.
Port Monmouth, N.J. – An officer on routine patrol smelled burning marijuana in the still night air. He observed a plume of smoke rising from the chimney of a million dollar home and determined that to be the source of the odor. After calling for back up, the officer knocked on the door of the home and arrested the “gardener” who’d been burning excess plant material from the 1,064 marijuana growing in a specially constructed grow room in the home. This discovery and arrest led to the discovery of $10 million dollars worth of marijuana from grow rooms in five other million dollar homes in the neighborhood.
Gardenia, Ca. – A man shot his wife several times while chasing the fleeing woman down the street. A police officer saw the chase and fired at the man, killing him.
Providence, R.I. – Three officers were arrested in a cocaine sting. The officers involved were a patrol officer, a sergeant who served as driver for the mayor, and a narcotics detective. The department is already dealing with other black eyes – an officer charged with beating a suspect with a flashlight. Another is facing trial for allegedly raping a woman in a police substation.
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Writers’ Police Academy
* Please, please, please register for your hotel rooms! They’re going fast, and I’ve only managed to secure a limited number. There are several other large events in the area the same weekend as our event. The hotel will not bill you for the room until check in. Remember, the hotel is providing free shuttle service to and from the airport, and to and from the academy. They’re also providing free breakfast for registered guests who’re attending the Writers’ Police Academy. All that for a mere $79 per night. I’ve never, ever seen a deal like that at any other writer event.
If you’ve already registered for your room, but neglected to ask for the WPA deal, please call the hotel to make the change. It’s very important that you do so.
* Important Notice – We are very, very close to reaching capacity for the FATS training. So close, I can actually see the last seat in the class. Actually, we can only squeeze in two or three more people at the most. Please register now to reserve your spot! We just added some pretty cool real-life scenarios to this training. I can’t wait to see you guys in these shoot/don’t shoot situations. I was in the FATS room yesterday and learned that you’ll be firing real Sig Sauers and Glocks at your human targets.
I met with the police academy officials and we’ve added even more to the program. We’ve included a wonderful EMS segment where you’ll have the opportunity to treat gunshot and stabbing victims alongside real EMS workers. You’ll use actual equipment and supplies, and you’ll load your patients into a real working ambulance.
Even I’m excited about the Writers’ Police Academy. There’s never been anything like this anywhere. This is not like a citizens police academy. This is the real deal!!
Lee – funny you should mention the Bearcat…I too had one of those and I know exactly the radio dance you are talking about. It is still possible to find old scanners that will listen to that range of frequency and then listen to old technology home phones, baby monitors, etc. It is very difficult to listen to cell conversations as they are constantly switching from tower to tower. I know it used to be possible, but honestly I don’t even know if you can hear anything anymore.
For the wireless laptop cards…it may it be possible to track them. When you connect to the Internet using a wireless connection all of your Internet activity will be associated with the IP address of the main connection. For example, if you are sitting at your local coffee shop WiFi connection and are committing online crimes, when the police investigate the IP address involved in the crime it’s going to come back to the coffee shop.
Once we get to the coffee shop it gets kind of difficult. If the shop has some IT people who are sharp they may log the MAC (Media Access Control) address of every incoming connection. This may help us narrow down the equipment responsible for the online activity. If there is no logging available we are probably out of luck completely.
If logging is enabled and the hotspot requires the user to authenticate some way (like agreeing to the acceptable use policy and inputing an e-mail address or credit card number) we’re probably in luck.
This is an issue with Internet investigations. People who war drive (drive around looking for free wireless Internet) and then commit crimes can sometimes get innocent people into trouble with the law since their criminal activity will come back to the people who had the Internet connection. This is exactly why people who have wireless Internet at their home or office should always encrypt it, hide the SSID and use MAC address filtering.
There is talk of some airlines offering wireless Internet access during flights. Imagine trying to investigate a case when your suspect is one of 130 passengers on a flight and the crime occurred 37,000 feet above the USA. This will start causing some really interesting boundary issues.
I hope this answered your questions!
JD Rhoades – It is my experience that text messages are not stored at the service providers at all. Once they are delivered they are gone for good. With 363 BILLION text messages sent in the US last year alone, no one wants to store that information.
Thanks so much for your answer. Now, if they’re deleted off the phone, can they be recovered form the service provider?
That must have been you I saw in the street next to the black van – I thought it was someone demonstrating Power Tai Chi. Did your signal come through – were those the crooks who were falling out of the window laughing from watching you? ROTFL!
And, thank you Sgt. Moulin – another wonderfully informative essay.
Thanks so much, Sgt. Moulin, and Lee for inviting him. It’s good to know our cell phone usage isn’t open to anyone who’s curious about our whereabouts. Now, all we have to do as writers is get that point across to our readers, who seem to think anyone can find anyone if they leave a cell phone on.
JD Rhoades – Yes, text messages are stored on the phone’s memory and if it’s a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone they can be stored on the SIM card. It is possible to even recovered deleted text messages from many phones.
Can you recover text messages?
Kendra – The Kim incident actually occurred just to the county north of me, within a 45 minute drive. I am familiar with the case, but our task force was not involved in the efforts to identify their location. I do know that cell tower information was utilized at some point, but don’t know why it took a few days to obtain the information.
And, can law enforcement officers track laptops using the wireless internet cards?
Josh – Please do go on and on. This is a topic that fascinates a lot of mystery writers.
I, too, have a question. Are people still able to use scanners to listen in on cell phones and cordless home phones? I know the old Bearcat Pro-54 hand-held scanner could be programmed to listen to either.
To program the scanners you had to do something like hold down two or three keys at once, enter a series of numbers, and maybe hold your let arm in the air while standing on one foot and quack like a duck, but eventually the wireless signals came through.
To answer your question – yes. In fact this is a very popular criminal activity to do. Most commonly we find people involved in narcotics or terrorism using the prepaid track phones to conduct their “business”. There are actually protocols for business owners who sell the prepaid phones to contact law enforcement if someone buys a large amount of them.
Without revealing too many secrets, these can be an issue for law enforcement but not impossible to deal with.
Terry – There are different “levels” of information that is available to law enforcement, and they take different processes to obtain them. Sometimes the information we are interested in is on the phone itself. If that’s the case, we either need the consent of the owner or a search warrant to examine the phone (or some other exception to the 4th amendment such as exigency, etc.)
If the information we want is something stored on the cell phone providers end then we either need, 1) consent of the phone owner, 2) a subpoena, or 3) a search warrant for the information. A general rule of thumb is that subscriber information and non-content information (billing records, old phone logs, etc.) can be provided by a subpoena. Anything that is live, or content (voice mail messages, live tracking, etc.) must be provided only after a search warrant is served on the company.
If law enforcement wants to track a cell phone of a suspect we can issue a search warrant, or if the situation is emergent such as a kidnapping case we can send them a letter stating the exigent circumstances and they will begin giving us live information from the cell phone communicating with towers. The only exception is if the phone is turned off.
It is possible for a person to track another person’s cell phone location, but that normally requires some sort of extra service on the phone account. For example this technology is used by several cell providers as a service for parents to track their children. Disney has a cell service just like this. What you can’t do though is just track a random person or add this service to someone’s account without the knowledge of the person paying the bill.
I hope this makes sense; I could go on and on!
I agree, great post. What are your thoughts on how the towers were used to locate James and Kati Kim? Do we know a lot more about locating through cell phones now than we did then?
I could be wrong, but believe it is through the cell “tower” that a location of time called is determined. It would be great to know more about the towers and how they are used. How many in big cities verses small towns ? Is legal permission needed on the towers, or case by case ?
The disposable phones are a new trick too. Not sure how much the provider gets when they sell them. If a foreigner walks in with cash only, must they provide a passport so there is still always a link ?
Great post Josh. Keep up the good work.
Perfect timing for me too – what I am trying to find out is if it is possible for my crooks to steal a case of cell phones, use each one once, discard it, and so on – this is for a light weight burglary. It appears that there are cell phones that come ready to use – are they ready enough for this sort of use?
Josh is on the West Coast so he’ll be a little later responding, but he assures me that he’ll stop in to answer your questions.
Terry – I thought Josh’s post was perfect timing for your work-in-progress. I’ve been following your questions regarding GPS and cell phones.
Thanks for this post. I’m running into some cell phone “issues” in my WIP, and this helps. Do I understand correctly, that despite popular television shows, it’s not all that easy for anyone, law enforcement included, to ‘track’ someone by a cell phone signal? That there are hoops to jump through to get the cell phone provider to relinquish this information.
My readers seem to think that if Joe good guy has his cell phone on, then Bill bad guy can find him. It’s not really that easy, is it?