Cell phone tracking technology helps police save lives

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News 12 at First at 5, July 3, 2007

AUGUSTA, GA--Text messages and specifically cell phones are now a big crime fighting tool and in a growing number of cases, they're helping victims before it's too late.

Now, emergency dispatchers may soon have more ways than one to help find you.

The screams of help on a 9-1-1 phone call from murder victim Gloria Roberison are a chilling reminder of just how far technology has come since her murder in 2005.

Investigators say she called 9-1-1 as she was being kidnapped in her car and stabbed by her ex boyfriend Ronnie Rhodes.

But her call was picked up in North Augusta, not Augusta. In January of 2005, Richmond and Aiken counties could not track her call from across state lines.

But that wasn't her only chance for help to fail. A second call came into Augusta 9-1-1 at the same time from an eyewitness reaching out to help Roberison.

That eyewitness wasn't from the area so he couldn't tell dispatchers in time to respond. Rhodes drove off with her in her car, her body
found in the same car floating in Twin Lakes about a week later.

Rhodes' body was found days later and investigators later ruled it a murder-suicide. Sgt. Richard Roundtree, "It's a call that still haunts me to this day."

Had Gloria's call been made today and not two years ago, Sgt. Roundtree says she possibly could've been saved. Now that cell phones can be tracked through 9-1-1.

If a call is made, dispatchers can trace the location even if you can't tell them where you are. And as long as you stay on the line, they can continue to track you even if you are on the move.

"It's a critical tool." says Richmond County EMA 9-1-1 director Phil Wasson.

But it may soon get even better as the federal government is working on the "Next Generation" 911 program.

It would allow you to text message for help or instant message 911, even send a picture message from your cell phone.

Wasson says while the government is in the process of putting these ideas into use. The programs are not ready to be used yet here, and when they are, they'll need the money to fund them.

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