Technology and social media’s role in crime solving

How technology like cell phone pings and social media can be used in criminal investigations.
Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 2:59 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - At a media update earlier this week, Lyon County Sheriff’s Office presented a map containing lines and a highlighted area just north of Fernley.

“This cell phone mapping leads up to an area of Highway 427 and Wadsworth,” said Detective Erik Kusmerz.

That mapping was made possible with Naomi’s cell phone and a cell tower in the area just outside of Fernley. Search and rescue teams have been seen in the area looking for any clues they can find.

Investigators and the family are asking anyone who comes across a newer iPhone to contact law enforcement immediately.

We know the 18-year-old was on social media through her cell phone as she waited in a Walmart parking lot on March 12. The activity started at 5:09 in the morning and ended at 5:25. That was Just before someone got in her car through the driver’s side door and drove off with Naomi in the passenger seat.

“It goes stagnant for approximately ten minutes, and we have no further cell phone activity from Naomi,’ says Detective Kusmerz of Naomi’s cell phone activity after the abduction.

The detective says they are constantly monitoring and looking for another ping that can be traced to Naomi’s phone.

“The phone converts your voice into electronic signals which is ten transmitted into waves to the nearest cell tower,” says Professor Paromite Pain with UNR’s Reynolds School of Journalism. “And when it hits the cell tower? You have a ping,’ she says.

Professor Pain is not affiliated with the Irion investigation in any way. We came to her to get an explanation of how technology and social media can be used to solve crimes.

We know Naomi was using three dating apps. on a regular basis. Law enforcement could use her communication with others to weed out suspects or better understand Naomi’s activities.

However, a delve into these apps, isn’t an open door to walk through necessarily. If it’s a public post, Professor Pain says that’s fair game. If, however, the post is private, that may be a problem.

“Legally law enforcement needs subpoenas to view,” says Professor Pain. Law enforcement also needs subpoenas to review records from cell towers as well. Subpoenas may be needed for cell calls and even text messages.

But it’s not always the case says Professor Pain who gives an example.

“I have sent a message to my friend, telling my friend I am going to do something dreadful,” she says. “And then I go and do what I said I was going to do. I’ve affected lives. If my friend comes forward and tells the police this is the contest I have received, and this is what she said, then that information will hold up without a warrant.”

Professor Pain says whether the information is gathered through a cell tower, cell phone or social media, investigators are going to have to get verified copies if they plan on prosecuting a case.

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