Governor Tom Corbett signed into law on Wednesday (October 22) a measure introduced by Senator Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny/Butler) intended to save lives by speeding up a process for using technology to locate missing people.
Act 181 of 2014, also known as the “Kelsey Smith Act,” will require wireless providers to “ping” the cell phone of a missing person at the request of law enforcement officials when there is sufficient information to believe there is a risk or threat of death or serious physical harm.
“Currently, in most cases law enforcement officers must obtain a subpoena, based on the concern that a victim is in a situation where they are in danger. That can take a couple of days. In addition, there are so many wireless providers and each one has its own protocols and that can cause some issues in certain areas,” said Senator Vulakovich. “This new law sets up a statewide protocol where everybody follows the same regulations. There will be a standard procedure set up to expedite the provision of this vital information to law enforcement officers, so they can find the physical location of the victim in an expeditious manner.”
The measure is named after an 18-year old Kansas woman who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in 2007. The tragedy resulted in a movement by her parents to ensure that law enforcement authorities can receive assistance from cell phone providers to help find missing persons. Since 2005, the FCC has required cell phone manufacturers to include GPS receivers in all devices. This has allowed first-responders to pinpoint the location of 911 callers in an emergency.
In addition to Kansas, thirteen states have passed similar legislation. They are Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.
“I appreciate the support of my colleagues and the Governor for this important bill,” said Senator Vulakovich, a former sergeant with the Shaler Township (Allegheny County) Police Department. “The worst feeling in the world is to lose someone. When I stop along the turnpike, I see the posted pictures of people who are missing and I think what a wonderful feeling it would be to be the person who finds that missing person. I want to give law enforcement officials the opportunity to make that feeling a reality.”