Society

Parents of Murdered Teen Push for Kelsey Smith Act, Cell Phone Carriers to Release Customer Location to Authorities

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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The mother of an 18-year-old who was abducted and murdered in 2007 is pushing for more states to adopt the Kelsey Smith Act, legislation that would require cell phone service providers to release customer location information in the event of an emergency.

Kelsey Smith of Overland Park, Kan., was abducted at a shopping mall in broad daylight on June 2, 2007. Her body was found four days later near a Missouri lake.

Kelsey’s mother, Missey Smith, claims that, had Verizon Wireless quickly provided the teen’s cell phone records to authorities, the search could have ended sooner. The teen was found near a cell phone tower from which her phone had last pinged.

The Kelsey Smith Act was signed into law by then Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius on April 17, 2009. At this point, only nine states have adopted the law.

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Missey and her husband, Kansas State Senator Greg Smith, are travelling the country to lobby for the legislation. They travelled to Rhode Island last week and to Nevada on Monday.

“We want to create a national standard to make it very clear and easy for law enforcement and families of victims in the case of an emergency to be able to locate their missing loved one,” Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., told FoxNews.com. “In Kelsey’s case, they had the information but they weren't releasing it because they didn’t have clear defined procedures.”

“The information is readily available to cell phone providers within 15 to 20 minutes, and we could not get our cell provider at the time to release that information,” Missey said. “This is not an issue of privacy. It’s not a matter of content – we’re not asking for text messages or information about who the person is contacting. We’re simply asking for the location of the phone.”

“This law costs zero to implement,” she said. “And it absolutely saves lives.”

Organizations like the ACLU say the law brings up privacy concerns.

“The major one is that it removes a check on when law enforcement can access this type of information,” legislative counsel for the ACLU Chris Calabrese said.

“An emergency can’t be a magic word – where all police have to do is say ‘emergency’ and cell phone companies release information,” he added.

Spokeswoman for Verizon Debra Lewis said Verizon support’s the family’s effort to get the bill passed.

"Time is of the essence when a child is missing – the first three hours are critical to recovering a child alive," CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children John Ryan wrote in an email to FoxNews.com. "Law enforcement must be able to obtain cell phone locations as quickly as possible in these circumstances. We support the efforts to clarify current laws to prevent any delays in disclosing this information in cases of missing children, which includes persons under age 21 under federal law."

Sources: Fox News, WPRI.com