Your Tax Dollars At Work: Cops Use Stingray To ALMOST Track Down Suspected Fast Food Thief
from the all-investigative-eggs-put-in-one-technological-basket dept
Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, secured through Homeland Security grants, to buy repurposed military technology, which is then put to use to hunt down… fast food thieves.
Many agencies say national security and the need to protect an investigatory tool prevents them from talking about cell site simulators. That extends to the cases themselves.
It’s unclear how many cases had links to national security. Logs released by some agencies do not explicitly cite national security but instead include violent crimes such as homicides and rape; others were more routine crimes, including burglaries, assaults and auto theft.
Equipment costing at least $125,000 plus the hourly rate of officers trained to use it. What’s the ROI on this investigation, especially considering the suspect wasn’t located?
Annapolis Police couldn’t find their target in the case of a Pizza Boli’s employee who reported being robbed of 15 chicken wings and three subs while out on delivery in March. In that case, police got a court order, according to the police log.
The value of the wings and subs totaled $56.77.
According to the Capital News Service investigation, in the seven counties closest to Baltimore and Washington DC, agencies have spent nearly $3 million on Stingray equipment. While the word “terrorism” often appears on applications for funding grants, there’s no evidence the devices have ever been deployed in terrorism investigations. Instead, the most popular use for the devices is to fight the drug war.
Law enforcement spokespeople will often point to the handful of homicide or kidnapping investigations successfully closed with the assistance of cell site simulators, but they’ll gloss over the hundreds of mundane deployments performed by officers who will use anything that makes their job easier — even if it’s a tool that’s Constitutionally dubious.
Don’t forget, when a cell site simulator is deployed, it gathers cell phone info from everyone in the surrounding area, including those whose chicken wings have been lawfully purchased. And all of this data goes… somewhere and is held onto for as long as the agency feels like it, because most agencies don’t seem to have Stingray data retention policies in place until after they’ve been FOIA’ed/questioned by curious legislators.
Regular policework — which seemed to function just fine without cell tracking devices — now apparently can’t be done without thousands of dollars of military equipment. And it’s not just about the chicken wing thieves law enforcement can’t locate. It’s about the murder suspects who are caught but who walk away when the surveillance device wipes its feet on the Fourth Amendment as it serves up questionable, post-facto search warrants and pen register orders.