Smile for The Satellites, Suspects

Smile for The Satellites, Suspects
Posted by CN Staff on March 17, 2003 at 11:34:08 PT
By David Chernicky, Daily Press
Source: Daily Press 
Newport News -- Baltimore narcotics detectives investigating a large heroin ring knew about the weekly trips to the Peninsula. An informant had told them the suspected ringleader was hiding some of his ill-gotten drug money at his girlfriend's Newport News house.One problem, though. Detectives didn't know where she lived. They had two options: Round up about 50 officers to tail the suspect 230 miles or let an orbiting satellite track him.
The Global Positioning System - or GPS - is fast becoming one of law enforcement's most useful, cost-effective, high-tech gadgets.Local police won't say whether they have ever used GPS devices to track a suspect. A FBI spokesman in Norfolk also declined to talk about the use of electronic surveillance.Police departments don't like to talk about GPS, or other high-tech weapons, because they think it'll prompt criminals to inspect their vehicles for the small boxes. Most accounts of GPS use among police have been limited to cases in which a private subscriber asks for law-enforcement help."We don't want to give up any tactical advantage," said Newport News Police spokesman Harold Eley.He said the department could borrow any equipment it needed under mutual aid pacts with other agencies.Other Virginia agencies have talked.The Virginia Department of Corrections has been studying a satellite tracking system to monitor high-risk offenders on probation or parole. The offender carries the device in an ankle bracelet, which transmits signals to a portable GPS receiver."If we can secure the funding we'll be able to provide that service," said Mario Woodard, special programs manager for state corrections.Loudon County's probation and parole office and the court service unit have been using GPS ankle bracelets to monitor certain offenders for more than a year.Smithfield Police Chief Mark Marshall wished his department had a GPS tracking system when it and other agencies were investigating a massive gun-running operation nearly a decade ago.Marshall said police identified several people who persuaded local crack addicts to buy pistols from legitimate dealers. The addicts then turned over the guns to the leaders, who moved them to New York City. The guns were traded for cocaine."Small police departments like ours," Marshall said, "don't have the resources to track people across several states."The federal government approved the satellite technology, originally developed as a navigational device for the U.S. military, for general use in 1998.Tom Lehn, a vice president for Cincinnati-based RACO Industries Inc., which sells GPS devices, said a small electronic box affixed to a moving vehicle draws signals from satellites. The signals then relay information about location, speed and time to a server.The system updates the location - displayed on a computer-screen map - every minute or so.Lehn glanced at the map on his office computer as he talked about GPS devices. The map pinpointed the locations of shuttle buses at a Houston airport, one of RACO's customers. Other customers include car rental agencies and companies that operate a fleet of vehicles.Some private investigators have used satellite-tracking equipment to spy on cheating spouses. A consumer can buy a handheld device for $150. A more sophisticated system runs between $500 and $600, he said.The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for police use of GPS devices about 20 years ago when it ruled that an undercover officer did not invade a man's privacy when he planted a beeper in the suspect's car.But some legal experts and civil liberties groups disagree."Society is going to have to decide," said Fred Lederer, chancellor law professor at the College of William and Mary, "where we draw the line between efficient law enforcement and individual privacy, which has always been the dilemma since the country was founded.""We think this is a tremendous invasion of privacy," said Lee Tien, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group concerned with civil liberties and technology issues.Baltimore police used GPS devices to track convicted drug dealer Wiley McCoy "Corey" Williams and his son, Dontae Terrell Edwards, to a house on Pennington Avenue in Newport News during a three-month investigation of open-air drug markets in two West Baltimore neighborhoods.The organization netted about $20,000 a day from heroin sales, said Police Maj. Fred Bealefeld, commander of Baltimore's drug enforcement unit.The investigation identified Williams as the alleged ringleader and Dontae Edwards as his top lieutenant in charge of collecting daily profits.Bealefeld said Williams called the trafficking ring "Operation Money Train," after the type of heroin sold.Baltimore Detective Richard Pollock said an informant told them Williams would travel to Newport News weekly with drug money made that week.Once detectives identified the cars the two men used, a technology specialist planted a GPS transmitter on each. The device remained on the cars for the next 10 to 12 days.On Jan. 30, Pollock called a Newport News detective after the GPS map placed the cars in a driveway on Pennington Avenue, according to an affidavit authorizing a search of the house.Police found $6,000 hidden in a ceiling of the house where Williams' girlfriend and a child were living.Simultaneous searches of nine locations in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County netted about $40,000, three handguns, a rifle, five ounces of heroin, five ounces of cocaine and a half-pound of marijuana.Baltimore police traced the serial number on one of the handguns to a semiautomatic pistol reported stolen during a January robbery in Smithfield.Police arrested 11 people, including 37-year-old Williams.Pollock praised the GPS devices for helping to crack the case."It's a great tool," he said. "If we had to physically follow someone from state to state, we'd need at least 50 officers."Note: GPS used to track alleged drug ringleader to NN.Source: Daily Press (VA)Author: David Chernicky, Daily PressPublished: March 17, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Daily PressContact: letters dailypress.comWebsite: http://www.dailypress.comRelated Article & Web Site:Electronic Frontier Foundation Police Won't Use Satellites To Find Drugs Surveillance Archives
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Comment #7 posted by freedom fighter on March 19, 2003 at 16:54:32 PT
lombar, sorry, nada, impossible
not possible to do that to suspected serial killers...Do you know why???Because the serial killers do not smoke pot!Crazy huh!!!:(ff
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Comment #6 posted by lombar on March 17, 2003 at 21:18:40 PT
What about real crimes?
So when is this technology to be used to track suspected serial killers? ...
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Comment #5 posted by BUDSNAXZ on March 17, 2003 at 15:48:39 PT
Fun things to do with technology
I guess if you found one of these little boxes on your car it would be fun to tie it to a number of helium balloons and let it go. Let um track that !!!
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Comment #4 posted by AlvinCool on March 17, 2003 at 15:07:16 PT
How they make it sound
They make it sound like satellites "tracked" the suspects. They just put a simple $300 GPS unit in the car and set it for bread crumbs. Then they retrieve it.
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Comment #3 posted by Duzt on March 17, 2003 at 14:17:10 PT
50 officers?
I guess that shows police intelligence/efficiency. Why would it take 50 people to follow 1 person? And we pay them to do all this, what a crazy country this is. I sure hope my planned move to Holland works out, would be great to actually live in a free country rather than one that claims itself as one. 
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on March 17, 2003 at 12:11:36 PT
Just think.....
It's sad to see the various LEO's chasing their tails faster and faster, getting nowhere and spending more of our hard-earned money. Just think about how devastating it would be to the criminal world if drugs were 100% legalized. It would put the hurt on career criminals! We wouldn't have to follow them around, bug them, satellites, etc. We could crush them all in a matter of weeks! 
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Comment #1 posted by 2Spooky on March 17, 2003 at 11:44:16 PT
Back to the old fashioned meathod
Park a couple blocks away and walk to where you need to go.
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