Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office Planning Mobile Phone Locator System

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office on Friday announced plans for a state-funded mobile phone location system to help find criminals, missing persons and others based on court orders.

The community meeting on the mobile phone triangulation system, included invitees such as the NAACP, Asian Law Alliance and county staffers, and was held at the sheriff's office, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. James Jensen said.

The proposed mobile triangular system would permit the sheriff's office to use current cellular phone services to pinpoint the location of mobile phones on a cellular network to find people or acquire data on criminal activity, according to the office.

The state's Homeland Security Grant Program has fully funded the $502,889 cost for the county's triangulation system, sheriff's official said.

The system would be used in accordance with sheriff's office policy and could be deployed only after receiving a warrant signed by a magistrate except in life and death situations, officials said.

Even in instances of life and death emergencies, the sheriff's office would have to request a search warrant or court order to be signed by a magistrate after the fact.

Examples of when the system would be used include investigations into serious or violent felony crimes against people and searches for armed and dangerous criminals, for at-risk missing children and adults and victims of human trafficking.

The triangulation system would be used solely to trace mobile phones in those types of cases and not to find members of the community or to monitor, eavesdrop or intercept phone conversations or data transmissions such as texts, sheriff's officials said.

The system is mobile, would be based at the sheriff's office in San Jose and made available for use by other law enforcement agencies throughout the county as part of existing mutual aid arrangements.

After Friday's meeting, the sheriff's office will finalize a draft policy on the deployment of the mobile triangulation system and since the nature of the technology is confidential as required by the state, the office will decide what aspects of the policy may be made public, sheriff's official said.

The office will make a verbal report about the community meeting to the Board of Supervisors at the board's meeting on Tuesday.

The office needs to receive approval from the board to procure the system so that it may be purchased with the state grant money by May.

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