Push for bill to locate cell phones in emergencies

Mike Seals - April 28, 2021 11:19 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Federal laws are not cut and dry on using a cell phone to locate a person during an abduction. But there is a bill passing through the Oklahoma legislature now that lawmakers say would save lives.

It’s called the Kelsey Smith Act. It allows law enforcement to work with wireless providers to locate cell phones in the case of emergency. A couple in Kansas knows it can be a matter of life and death.

“When your child is missing, you don’t eat, you don’t sleep, you don’t do anything but try to find her, and I knew that this company had the ability to help me find her and they would do it,” said Missey Smith.

In 2007, Missey and Greg Smith were frantic when their 18-year-old daughter Kelsey was abducted from a Kansas City-area shopping center parking lot.

“The calls that we were making, and the police were making, were to the customer service branch of the cell phone company and dealing with a customer service person who really didn’t have any experience or know what to do,” said Greg Smith.

The provider was reportedly also worried about violating privacy laws. When law enforcement finally got clearance to locate Kelsey’s phone, four days later, her body was found in just 45 minutes.

“If we have an abduction out there, minutes are critical, hours are devastating. Days? Well, it usually doesn’t end well, quite frankly,” said Senator Darrell Weaver.

Weaver, a Republican from Moore, spent almost 30 years in law enforcement. He authored the bill in Oklahoma. The Kelsey Smith Act allows law enforcement agencies around the state to go through the OSBI to contact cell phone providers in the case of an abduction if a victim is believed to be in imminent danger. Weaver says it can be an important tool.

“I don’t think this will be used often, I don’t think its something like a hammer that you pull out every day, but it’s that special wrench in that tool box that you pull out and save someone’s life,” said Weaver.

The bill’s co-author in the House says it also could be used to locate an elderly missing person with dementia.

“Its limited in its operation, but I think it could be valuable for law enforcement when trying to locate certain individuals who may be in danger or could be lost,” said Rep. Rande Worthen of Lawton.

The Smiths are remembering their daughter by helping to get this legislation passed in 27 other states. Officials in Kansas tell them it helped save the life of a baby abducted in a carjacking.

“The police said it was absolutely due to the Kelsey Smith Act that they were able to locate this child. You do start crying because that baby is alive because our baby isn’t,” said Missey Smith

The Oklahoma version of the Kelsey Smith Act passed easily through the State Senate Wednesday afternoon. It now moves to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.


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