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State Police Acknowledge Use Of Cell Phone Tracking Device

Indiana State Police building

The Indiana State Police are responding to lawmakers’ and civil rights organizations’ concerns that it is overstepping its boundaries by using a device that can track cell phone calls, text messages and movements within a set radius.

Indiana State Police Captain Dave Bursten said in a statement the department is working well within the bounds of the law.  He says protection of investigation methods is key to the success of building a case.

Bursten won’t say exactly how the technology is used, because he says it would be “like a football team giving up their playbook.”

A joint USA Today and IndyStar investigation found earlier this month that the state police spent $373,995 on a device called a Stingray.

Often installed in a surveillance vehicle, the suitcase-size Stingrays trick all cellphones in a set distance — sometimes exceeding a mile, depending on the terrain and antennas — into connecting to it as if it were a real cellphone tower. That allows police agencies to capture location data and numbers dialed for calls and text messages from thousands of people at a time.

State police officials initially refused to provide any records related to the purchase of the Stingray.

After the IndyStar appealed the denial to the Indiana Public Access Counselor, the Indiana State Police provided a one-page document confirming the purchase of the device but no information about how it is used.

USA Today and the IndyStar also sought records about what are known as "tower dumps," in which police seek court orders requiring cell phone companies to provide investigators with massive amounts of phone data.

Network Indiana contributed to this report.

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