La. lawmakers to push bill that could help search for missing persons
LAFAYETTE - Lawmakers in Louisiana will soon be considering a bill that will incorporate cell phone technology in missing persons and kidnapping cases.
House Bill 456, proposed by state Rep. Ledricka Thierry, D-Opelousas, focuses on cell phone pings and speeding up the process that allows investigators to track those pings. Under the current privacy laws, it is a process that can take several days because law enforcement has to subpoena service providers for that information.
Every time a cell phone passes a cell tower, it registers a ping establishing the location of the phone.
It's those pings that some argue can help investigators, and bring missing people home.
"If this becomes state law, it would be a way for law enforcement to use it as a tool, to possibly get a location of the victim within a matter of hours," said Thierry.
The bill would create the Kelsey Smith Act in Louisiana, named after an 18-year-old from Kansas who was abducted from her vehicle, raped and killed. It took Verizon four days to give the location of her cellphone to law enforcement. When they did, Smith's body was found in an hour.
So far, 15 states have passed a version of the Kelsey Smith Act, according to a Facebook group dedicated to getting every state to pass the law.
One friend of Davina Chapman, who was murdered by her boyfriend Jon Snyder in July 2009, said if the process of subpoenaing cell phone information from the service providers had not taken days to be approved, law enforcement might have found Chapman alive alive.
"If we could've located his phone, would that have made a difference and be life saving for her?," said Rhonda Bergeron.
Bergeron went to Thierry with an idea on how to expedite the process for investigators to obtain cell phone information.
"We're second in the nation for domestic violence deaths, which is inexcusable," Bergeron said. "And so I think that bringing that to Louisiana, my hope is that it's going to be called the DAC law, which is her initials, Davina Ann Chapman."
Thierry said she is happy to introduce the bill and carry it this session. A similar bill has been filed in the senate.
"Anytime there's an opportunity to protect the citizens of the state of Louisiana," said Thierry. "Even if it saves the life of one person, I think it's very much worth the effort."
The legislative session starts at noon on Monday.