After burglary, state legislator REALLY wants to give cops phone-tracking power

SEATTLE -- Cell phone tracking could help police crack a lot of cases in Washington state. But right now it`s off limits.

A local lawmaker is using his experience from a burglary at his home to double down on a proposal to change the law.

"I was a little angry that somebody would so brazenly be coming into the house and take something," state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, said Tuesday.

The burglar who hit his home took his cell phone and his rental car. But McCoy was able to use a phone-ping tracking app on his iPad  to let police know where the suspect was located.

"It just popped up that he was sitting at 23rd and Broadway in Everett," said McCoy. "It was so simple."

So simple, yet police in our state are not allowed to use this technology without a warrant.

Ironically, the senator has pushed legislation that would do just that last year. He introduced a bill named after Kelsey Smith, a teen who was kidnapped in Kansas in 2007 and later killed. Her phone could have revealed her location, but it took three days for police to get the approval to track it.

McCoy's bill failed to pass last session, partly over concerns over privacy issues. If a new bill is presented in Olympia again, Doug Honig, with ACLU of Washington, said the civil liberties organization doesn't expect to oppose it "if it's designed to be used by police only in an emergency situation.”

In McCoy's case, the burglary suspect was arrested, and McCoy got his phone and car back, thanks to the tracking app.

He now plans to use his experience to push a new bill when lawmakers go back into session in January.