Wichita, Kansas - Jan Kilbourne was a very wanted man. Dozens of officers, helicopters, tracking dogs and good old-fashioned police work all played a part in apprehending the man wanted for, police say, shooting a Butler County Sheriff’s Deputy.
But the work was more than “boots on the ground” tracking a suspect. They used technology.
“Cell phone ping,” says Harvey County Undersheriff Todd Hanchett. “Yes, it really works.”
Hanchett did not actively work on the Kilbourne case. But he says Harvey County has seen the cell phone ping work in very similar cases.
“We call the phone company,” says Hanchett. “If it’s not an emergency, we have to get a warrant. But once we get to work, we can have he company ping the phone. It works.”
Cell pinging work by the cell company sending a “ping” command to the cell phone in question. Cell phones search for towers to get a signal, and when a “ping” is sent, a cell phone will respond.
“Of course it doesn’t always start with a ping,” says Hanchett. “You have to do some detective work. First, you have to start with all known associates of the suspect. Then, you get a list of cell phones or land lines he may call. Then, you wait for a cell to call in on one of those numbers.”
And then comes the ping. Of course, there is more involved that Hanchett would not go into, but that is the basic idea.
” In once case,” explains Hanchett. “We knew that the suspect was using a cell phone trying to make it sound like he was some place else. And when we pinged his phone we found out he was just outside the suspect residence and we were able to locate him out in the country. “
In another case, Harvey county used the cell phone to find their suspect, hiding under a bridge.
Cell phones also have GPS. If a cell phone has GPS, phone companies can locate a phone location to about one meter.
“But never rule out good old police work,” says Hanchett. “Make no mistake, all the officers working on this case really paid off.”