Friday, June 7, 2013

Off the grid

Earlier this week, I spotted a small group of officers in the Criminal Investigations Team gathered around an iPad.  You know me, a knot of cops around an iPad was irresistible.  Turns out the iPad belonged to an 18 year old runaway, and the officers were brainstorming about how to use Find my iPhone to track the current location of her MacBook.  Our missing person had skipped town with her laptop, but left her phone and tablet behind, which were provided to the investigators by her parents.

It turns out that our missing person had changed her Apple ID while on the lam, thwarting the attempt to easily track her with her own iPad. Good thinking.  We tried Facetiming her (and her boyfriend) without success, too.  She was not, however, entirely off the grid.

My experience is that the parents of a runaway are almost always very, very worried.  They are often convinced--beyond all logic--that their incorrigible child with a history of splitting has now actually been kidnapped and is being held against her will. I understand the fear.  This is your baby, after all, and though incredibly rare, there really are those occasional cases that put a lump in your throat. It should, however, be comforting to know that your abducted child is still updating Facebook, and making $2 purchases at convenience stores halfway across the country. Kidnappers will generally force you to buy a little more snack food than that.

So far this year, Lincoln police officers have investigated 886 missing person reports. It's a huge job.  The chance encounter with the investigator seeking assistance from some colleagues just reminded my how much these investigations have changed within the very recent past, as technology has become ubiquitous that makes it almost impossible for a teenager (and most adults) to fall off the grid for very long.


Anonymous said...

It amazes me how little control parents force on their children in the interest of protecting their privacy. If I bought the phone, signed the contract and I'm paying the cell phone bill for my 17 yr old, it's my phone.

That means no passwords that I don't know on FB, email, Instagram, Twitter, or the phone itself.

It also means, in the case of an iPhone - it turn restrictions on - set a 4 digit password that only I know, and disable her ability to change her Apple ID as well as disable her (or a thief) from turning off location services.

That simple move ensures that I always know where my daughter's phone (and presumably her) is.

Not a help in this case, where she didn't have her phone - but the fact that she was able to change her Apple ID on her own (especially with her history) means to me that she has just a little too much freedom.

And yes, I'm completely prepared to trade some hurt feelings and an argument or two for safety and piece of mind. Especially in this world we live in.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

You are being a parent, plain and simple. God bless you.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

Old Pirate GPS vs New Pirate GPS.

Anonymous said...

I assume that you've taken the phone and aren't giving it back, since she changed her ID against your wishes, telling her if she wants a phone after that transgression, she's going to have to get one herself and also eat the entire cost herself.

If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

Director Casady,

Remember when you wrote that you had an alert set up to notify you when a particular and very troublesome repeat felon was released from incarceration, because he'd be likely to go on a crime spree ASAP? Did this frequent flier just get released very recently?

H said...

Why are resources being spent to find an 18 year old? I assume that the young person in question did not meet the status of "vulnerable" due to an intellectual or physical disability.

At the age of 18, isn't she allowed to go find her way in the world?

Tom Casady said...


The age of majority in Nebraska is 19. We are one of four states where the age of majority is greater than 18. So, to answer your question: no, she is not yet free to find her way in the world.

Soon, though.

T.Cook, Seattle said...

"You know me, a knot of cops around an iPad was irresistible." Reason #eleventybillion why we love Director Casady.