Authorities turn to technology to help locate Facebook killer, S - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Authorities turn to technology to help locate Facebook killer, Steve Stephens


It’s been more than 24 hours since the shooting death of Robert Godwin Sr. on Cleveland's east side, and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have yet to locate dangerous killer Steve Stephens.

Cleveland Police have however made contact with Stephens, on his cell phone.

A signal from Stephens’ cell phone was picked up in Erie, Pennsylvania using GPS tracking, or “pinging.” All cell phones have a secret system that’s always turned on, sending constant signals to cell towers. 

Using information from cell phone companies, investigators can use what’s known as “cell tower triangulation.” This uses two or more towers to measure the time of the signal’s delay and approximate distance to the phone.

It’s the same technology used to help rescue kidnapping victim Kala Brown, who made worldwide headlines after she was held captive on a South Carolina farm.

Law enforcement has other technology at its disposal. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, and some Cleveland and suburban police and Ohio Highway Patrol vehicles are equipped with “plate readers” that can scan license tags of every vehicle that passes by. Our investigative unit check with neighboring states.

Indiana and New York police have plate readers. Pennsylvania does not. Michigan state police say they have plate readers that are fixed, monitoring traffic coming in and out of the state.

Police are also appealing directly to the public, flashing information on electronic highway signs, urging drivers to keep on the lookout for Stephens and his vehicle.

From the ground to the air, the search for Stephens includes Cleveland Choppers. At night, they are using infrared cameras.

More than anything, law enforcement is waiting for Stephens to make a game changing mistake. While he is on the run, is he running out of cash? Will he be forced to use a credit card to by food or gas leaving behind a possible electronic trail?

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