This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

PC Bloggs Says Ping!

What does it take to get the Headquarters Inspector to PING a mobile phone?

For my uninitiated readers, mobile phone companies can triangulate the rough location of a mobile phone by checking which transmission masts it is nearest to. Because this information is covered by the Data Protection Act, in order to get it you have to get AUTHORITY. This means someone who has passed two exams and made friends with the right people will decide yes or no. It can only be done in certain circumstances.

Here are some circumstances in which the Inspector will NOT authorise a "PING":
  • Someone's just burgled my house and stolen my mobile phone. The phone is still on, can we PING it to find out where the burglar is? NO.
  • My brother just rang me to say he is in the woods with a shotgun and he is going to kill himself. Can we PING his phone to find him? NO.
  • My 10 year old child has been missing all evening. Can we PING her mobile phone? NO.
  • Someone I know just stabbed me, wounding me seriously, and ran away. He's hiding somewhere. Can we PING his phone? NO.
If anyone can give an example of a time when they have successfully requested a PING, please let me know.

Other information that you can ask for is:
  • The guy who robbed me used my mobile phone to make some calls. Can we ask the mobile company who he called, to track him down? Yes but we have to submit three different forms and wait three months for the answer. The first of these forms is to confirm who is the subscriber of your phone. But it's me. Yes, but we have to confirm that by a month-long wait.
  • My ex-boyfriend has been harassing me. In interview he claimed that I phoned and texted him just as much as he did. This isn't true and I want you to take my mobile phone and look at it to prove it. OK, but we have to submit three different forms and wait three months for the information. But I'm telling you it's ok to look at my phone. Yes, but we have to fill in the forms anyway. This is taking too long, I desperately need my phone for work. Can I have it back? NO, it has fallen into the abyss that is the Police Property Store and you will never see it again. You should have thought of that before you gave it to us.
  • Someone has been phoning me and threatening to kill me. I have no idea who this person is, but they seem to be watching me all the time and yesterday my brake pipes were cut. Can you find out who is the subscriber to that mobile phone number? Yes, but it will take three months. I'll be dead by then. Yes, but at least we won't have unlawfully invaded anyone's privacy.

Copyright of PC Bloggs.


Blogger ExtraSpecialCopper said...

Is there some sort of huge cost involved such as the inspector having to sell his sell to the devil or what?? It could solve so many problems but is never used!!

02 October, 2006 09:11

Blogger Minbu said...

Annoyingly very true. Ain't Britain great?

02 October, 2006 15:17

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We successfully got authority for a ping recently for a case that was a combination of your 2nd and 3rd bullet points. Agreed in 15 mins. Maybe different forces are interpreting the rules differently (and I think RIPA is the relevant legislation rather than DPA?).

02 October, 2006 17:06

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Well NOW you're just being picky! It is data protection that governs privacy, ie people's location, but RIPA which gives us the power to breach data protection. If that makes sense and I am interpreting it right (which is not guaranteed by any means).

02 October, 2006 17:36

Blogger staghounds said...

An inspector's soul, if one could be found, is an awfully low cost.

Add to your list,

"Hey, I just captured an Al Quaeaida training camp here in Afghanistan. There are some mobile phones showing incoming calls from U. S. and British numbers. Can we listen in on those callers' other calls?"

02 October, 2006 20:13

Anonymous notacop said...

'ang on a minty.

My boss called a cab from his mobile the other week in London, and they told him where he was. So they must have PINGed him. So if they can do it, then why can't you guys?

02 October, 2006 23:07

Anonymous NorthernPC said...

Notacop, we can't because we are the police. 'Nuff said.

03 October, 2006 12:02

Blogger Bitseach said...

I once had it done for a high-risk MisPer. Well, I didn't, but our Misper unit did and I started the report, so sort of vicariously!

A great frustration was only to have the telephone number for a next of kin for a Sudden Death yonks ago - put the papers in so that we could find an address for the landline number (yes I'd tried voters' reg, phone book etc!) but they never got back to me at all even with the Insp's authority, and in the meantime Social Services were phoned by the ex- of the deceased wondering why she hadn't seen him and the good old SS said, "oh Mr X? but he's dead". Nice way for the widow to find out. I was livid but there was nothing I could do.

03 October, 2006 12:15

Blogger PC South West said...

It's not as bad as trying to get a BANK to give any information for any reason. The last time I arrested someone for using what was a stolen bank card I was put through to a call centre in India. They suggested that I lock the person up until Monday (this was on Friday night) until the right dept was open again in the UK.

03 October, 2006 17:49

Blogger Bitseach said...

What a lovely idea - just to lock them up until Monday, that is! I like their thinking. Unfortunate that PACE doesn't though.
[Stupid PACE]

03 October, 2006 23:56

Blogger Midlands PC said...

We had another un-named East Midlands force ring us a few months ago, they had pinged the phone of a vulnerable MISPER, and asked that we attend the street the phone was pinged to to look for her. All well so far, but then the sergeant on the other end said the ping was accurate to within 1,500M. I drew a circle of this diameter on the map, summonsed the voters register summary for inside this circle, and gently pointed out that inside said circle was 18,000 addresses and 28,000 people, bearing in mind that not everyone registers to vote, the true figure could have been as high as 35,000-40,000 people. I gently enquired as to how practical did they think this was, only to be told 'Well, my chief Supt thinks it's top priority, he wants it done straight away'. Well he might, I thought. When he threatened to get his Supt to talk to mine, I offered to explain it direct to his Chief Constable. Rank hath no effect on the real world. They can be pinged better than that, but the costs are huge.

On a side note, the Israeli armed forces recently developed a helicopter launched missile that is programmed with the targets mobile phone number. Learn roughly where the target is, get a helicopter up, fire the missile, and then if he sees the helicopter, he has about 3 seconds to throw his phone as far as he can. I'll bet they don't need RIPA forms. The way to deal with phone robbery perhaps...?

04 October, 2006 11:56

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