Action News Jax investigates: How a cellphone could lead police to missing 5-year-old

Pinging could lead to clues in search for missing 5-year-old Taylor Williams

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — JSO has used a number of resources in an effort to find Taylor Williams, 5.

That includes drones, the dive team, horses and dogs.

Action News Jax Courtney Cole is taking a closer look at an item we all have that could lead police to her location.

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With a little help from a cellphone company —

Police can find your location through a process called pinging.

Police usually use it when they're: looking for a missing person, trying to find suspects related to a crime, or someone who needs medical attention right away.

Cellphone "pinging" can allow police to get within a few hundred feet of an active cellphone.

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It could be particularly helpful in this case, where the mother has had two different home addresses.

Here's how it works: Your phone communicates with towers. Then the cell phone company finds the tower closest to where your phone most recently sent and received a signal.

"As long as the phone is on, they should be able to find it on the network somewhere. If its battery has run out or its been turned off, they may not be able to track it at that point," said Stephen Sesnick, our Action News Jax Technology Expert.

Sesnick told Cole there's another way a cellphone company can locate a phone, too.

"The GPS on the phone itself. They can basically ping that and get an exact GPS location via that."
But the user can opt to turn that option, off.

Cole asked Sesnick if how long a ping location could possibly be saved. He said it all depends on the cellphone company and their record policies.

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