HACKENSACK, N.J. -- When FBI agents wanted to reconstruct the movements of a rogue New York City cop who staged a $1 million perfume heist in Carlstadt, N.J., last February, they turned to cell phone records to trace his steps.
Using a computer mapping program and "call detail" logs obtained from Sprint Nextel, agents plotted the locations of 42 cell sites in Bergen and Hudson counties and New York to track Kelvin L. Jones' movements as the armed robbery plot unfolded. Jones was convicted last month.
Cellular tracking of criminals -- including those like Jones who use prepaid mobile phones that can't easily be traced because there is no subscriber contract -- has become a cottage industry for the FBI.
The demand for cell site records has mushroomed as the ability to zero in on phones has become more and more precise, drawing criticism from civil libertarians and prompting some courts to take a new look at the legal ground rules for granting access to such data.