A House Committee has heard testimony on a bill that would clear the way for cell phone companies to provide cell phone location information to law enforcement in certain missing persons cases.
The language of House Bill 1108 has been introduced three previous times in Missouri, and has been passed out of the House but never out of the Senate. It would require companies to locate, or “ping” a cell phone, when law enforcement requests that information in emergencies in which a missing person is in danger of serious physical injury or death. It also protects cell phone companies from being sued for providing that information under the guidelines of the bill.
Missey Smith has advocated for the bill each time. “It’s time that this gets changed.”
Missey and her husband, Greg Smith, are proponents of the bill commonly named for their daughter Kelsey, who was kidnapped from Overland Park, Kansas and found murdered in southern Jackson County in 2007.
Greg, now a legislator in Kansas, says if such language had been law then Kelsey might have been saved. “June 2, 2007 was the night she went missing and she was found four days later … Once that information was released by the cell phone company it only took forty-five minutes to recover her body.” A former police officer, he adds, “If you can get that kind of response in a missing person case, that’s just absolutely light years ahead of what we’re doing right now.”
Missey says the bill changes one component of current law. “They may turn this information over already. So, they’ve already got all of this in place. The Kelsey Smith Act, or this legislation, states they will. That’s the difference. It goes from ‘may’ to ‘shall.’”
No one testified against the bill in the hearing of the House Committee on Utilities.
Missey says it is frustrating the bill has not become law yet, and its sponsor agrees.
This is the first year Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs) has carried the language. “We have history and tracking that shows that this legislation is great, it’s in other states and it is time for Missouri to step up to the plate.”
The bill is currently law in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Hampshire and North Dakota. It is being considered this year in Hawaii and the Smiths say it could be taken up later this year in Massachusetts and Illinois. The Smiths says they know of two cases in the states where the law has passed in which cell phone location information has led to the safe recovery of a missing person.
Missy says she will be back in Missouri as needed to push for the bill to become law this year. “Whatever it takes to get it done.”