WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) -- Police departments around the United States are increasingly using cellphone tracking services, records reviewed by the American Civil Liberties Union show.
The New York Times said Sunday that some departments have become frequent users of tracing capabilities to monitor the whereabouts and phone-and-text communications in both emergency and routine investigations.
While of obvious usefulness in time-sensitive cases such as kidnappings and suicide threats, some departments also cellphone tracking for less-urgent cases. The Times said the practice has raised constitutional concerns among civil rights advocates.
"It's become run of the mill," said Catherine Crump, an ACLU lawyer who coordinated the group's gathering of police records. "The advances in technology are rapidly outpacing the state of the law."
Many police agencies require officers to get a search warrant before tracing a phone, however departments also have broad discretion to forge ahead on their own.
The police department in Gilbert, Ariz., bought their own tracing gear rather than keep paying fees for the service to cellphone carriers, the newspaper said.
"It's pretty valuable, simply because there are so many people who have cell phones," said Roxann Ryan, a criminal analyst with Iowa's state intelligence branch. "We find people and it saves lives."