KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nine states — including Missouri and Kansas — have passed Kelsey’s Law, which requires cell phone companies to release cell phone location information to police in emergency situations. Now Kelsey Smith’s parents are working with Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder to get it passed into federal law.
Kelsey Smith, 18, was abducted from the Target parking lot near the Oak Park Mall in June 2007. It took police four days to find her body in a wooded area near Longview Lake in south Kansas City, Mo. During the investigation, police went to Verizon Wireless, Smith’s cell phone provider, for information on her phone’s location since she had it on her, but Verizon didn’t release that information for four days. Once they did, police found her body within an hour.
“Cell phone providers are regulated both federally and statewide, so we need to make sure that law enforcement has those tools available,” said Missey Smith, Kelsey’s mother. “The federal law states that this information *may* be released — we just want the decision making to be left up to police officers, not a customer service rep on the other end of the phone at 2 a.m.”
Investigators said Smith was killed before they requested the cell phone information, but the immediate release of it would have saved her parents four days of heartache.
Smith’s parents have made it their mission to get every state to pass laws requiring phone companies to release cell phone location information to police in emergencies. Police say it will help them save lives. Still, some have privacy concerns since investigators would be able to get the information without a court order.
Greg Smith, Kelsey’s father, said the law is not interested in private data on cell phones.
“We’re not looking for content,” he said. “We don’t care who you’ve talked to. We don’t care what you’re saying. We don’t want to see your pictures. We don’t want to see your text messages. … If you think of it, if you pick up the phone and call 911 from your house, the police know where you’re at. This is somebody that would like to be able to pick up the phone and call but can’t. So the technology is there, let’s use it to save some lives.”
Two other Kansas lawmakers have tried to pass this law in Congress and have failed, but Congressman Yoder hopes a third attempt will be successful and plans to introduce Kelsey’s Law to the House on Monday.