1. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    How long does it take for a phone call to be traced by police?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Infinitytruth, Apr 8, 2011.

    Important, so I know how much damage can be done in that amount of time.
     
  2. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    When I was arrested for harrasing my sixth wife over the equitable distribution of our butterfly collection it took the police 19 minutes to nab me, but if your story is set in New Orleans understand N.O.P.D stand for "not our problem dude!"
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't try it, dude. They WILL find you. :D
     
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure what it ACTUALLY is in real life, but in TV and movies, it seems to be somewhere between 1m30s and 3m. It doesn't matter as long as you keep it consistent within that piece of writing. Also, you can cover it up by having them being vague on the specific time.

    Instead of saying, "The detective had 2 minutes to keep the kidnapper on the phone," you can say, "He had only seconds left." Or perhaps the detective looks at the guy with the laptop monitoring the call, and the guy shakes his head indicating that they are nowhere near making a connection, but the detective knows the conversation isn't going to last.

    On an afterthought, it might not even be set time. It might vary slightly depending on how far away the call is made and the alignment of satellites or whatever.
     
  5. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    the caller has to stay on the line for like over 30 seconds , i just googled the question go look
     
  6. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Thanks, didn't think of that.
     
  7. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Instantaneously, kinda. The police go to the service provider with a warrant, after that they just have to wait for the information to be looked up and given to them. The whole TV/movie thing where people hang up right before the police trace the number? Total BS. As soon as the call is made all the information is in the phone companies system.
     
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  8. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Lol, I forgot to put in there that its for a monster story, I'm writing. :p This question does sound curiously mischevious though. Haha
     
  9. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Thank you, so about 20 minutes total for them to go through all of that, and arrive at the scene of the crime?
     
  10. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Depends if the police are waiting for the call or not. They could potentially get the information as soon as the call is made if they are waiting for it.
     
  11. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Nope, there will be no one waiting or prepared for this call. Its a huge surprise attack no one was expecting. Blood covering the walls and floors even before officer arrival. An investigating police officer gets pulled into the ceiling while the other 4 remaining officers shoot the living s*** out of this seemingly invincible monster. The definition of bloodbath that no one saw coming....
     
  12. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    If you need the police to show up twenty minutes after your event, just write that they showed up 20 mins later.

    I mean, with a monster running around people aren't going to be concentrating as hard on how close to real life your story is as long as it doesn't seem too improbable.
     
  13. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    Okay, thank you. And that's a VERY good point. :D
     
  14. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Interesting. What if the call was made from a foreign country?

    And - an extension to the question - what if it was made from a foreign country whose police does not cooperate or share data with the local police (let's say for example somebody from North Korea calling somebody in the UK).
     
  15. BEyre
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    BEyre Member

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    Glad someone brought this subject up as I will be using this plot device at some point in my story also.

    Ok, thus far, thanks to Mr. Blue Dot and his happy shark *grins*, in reality, police can have the particulars of a phone call within moments just by calling the telephone company.

    Is the same true for:

    a) if the originating call comes from a different phone company's 'territory'?
    Ex. someone in Boise, Idaho calling someone in West Palm Beach, Florida.

    b) if the originating call comes from a different company, as Porcupine asked.

    c) if the originating call comes from a standard cell phone

    d) if the originating call comes from a 'throw away' cell phone

    e) if the receiving call is on either type of cell phone

    Basically, is there any scenario(s) where it would take an unusual amount of time to get the details of the call?
     
  16. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    I'm sure I've seen somthing recently where their tracking a phonecall and they hang up before it's finished tracking, so they know the general area but not exactly where it was. So you could have them search around to find it, giving the guy on the phone more time to do whatever.
     
  17. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^ This. It can take as little as 30 seconds to trace a call. The amount of time it takes the police to show up to the crime scene is an entirely different matter.

    Traffic, geography, and distance of the nearest available unit determine how long it will take them to appear. It could be 5 or 20 minutes. Decide however long you need and have the cops show up then.
     
  18. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Cell phones are actually particularly easy to trace, since the receiving stations know which phone is locked into them at the moment, and as long as the phone is switched on, it is quite simple to track its position. Of course, if the phone is discarded after use, this won't work any more. They will just have a position and a time, and then need to work from there.
     
  19. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I'm sure there would be jurisdiction issues with the first two scenarios. The international call might be handed to FBI/CIA depending on the nature of the case.

    Who makes and who receives the call doesn't matter too much, if some one on Sprint calls someone on Tmobile, both Sprint and Tmob will have the info the cops needs.

    Cell phones though, oh boy, get your tin foil hats ready!

    Whether the cell phone has GPS or not, they can figure out the location the call was made/received from. You can see how on pretty much any Android phone. Turn your GPS services off, and go into your Google Maps app to look at your location. Your phone will find the nearest cellular towers and triangulate your position between them, and it's fairly accurate. Mine right now says I'm standing in the street outside my house, and I'm in my living room, so I would say it's accurate to within 100 feet or so.

    So when the police trace a cellphone, they get the locations of all the cellphone towers the phone connected to during the call, and from this they can figure out the callers rough location. If it was a prepaid cellphone paid with cash, and no name was given, the police wouldn't be able to figure out who had the phone, but that's about the only thing they wouldn't know.

    VOiP might be complicated for the police, and add considerable amounts of time, maybe even days, to the phone trace. You have to get IP address in this scenario, and then you have to hope the caller wasn't using proxy servers, IP obfuscation or any other number of tricks that take time to sort through.

    At first I was thinking that a satellite phone might be tougher for police, but it might not be. Satellite phones are rare, and expensive (at least here in the US). If the phone doesn't connect to any cellphone towers, the police won't be able to figure out the location, but they would definitely figure out who made the call.
     
  20. Infinitytruth
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    Infinitytruth Senior Member

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    That is very interesting in many ways. I did not know 'they' could keep track of you using cell phones. Better believe they do too. Taking our freedoms little by little without us even being aware of it. A whole new reason I don't want a cell phone. Too easy for people to reach you for stupid s***. It's like some people are actually enslaved to their phone. A guy gets hit by a car, and the first damn thing they do is put it on twitter instead of help him.
     
  21. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    By 'they' I'm assuming you mean agencies like the NSA, and their foreign equivalents. Truth is, yes they are watching you, but they are watching everyone on every network they can. This generates massive amounts of information, more than any agency can possibly sort through. You're being watched, but it's a passive system, and just the nature of being connected to a network. Really, anybody can watch anybody with just a little knowledge of how the networks they use work, don't think for a second that it's limited strictly to governments. If you think the government is using illegal surveillance to watch you, you can catch them at it, and you can do something about it!

    There was a college student in the news recently that found a GPS tracking device on his car. The last I heard, that guy was suing every government employee in sight...
     
  22. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    A satellite phone would indeed be harder to trace. The position fix will be slightly less accurate, unless for some reason it also has a GPS module inside. Then of course you are back to GPS-accuracy location finding.

    It is done occasionally when following the movements of suspected criminals. But like Mr. Blue Dot said, if you catch somebody doing it to you, and you are not about to rob a bank or something, you have the law on your side.
     
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  23. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    It was Iron Man 2 :)
     
  24. Wasp
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    If they're set up to trace the call, they can get it in 10-15 seconds
     
  25. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is if they are expecting a call to trace.
     

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