You never heard of Caller ID?

You never heard of Caller ID?

Okay, this is for anyone who works in law enforcement or has in-depth knowledge of the telephone system. Is it really so hard for the police to trace a land-line phone call?

I have the same question every time I watch a TV show or movie, a bad guy calls the cops, and they need at least 2 or 4 or 10 minutes or something to trace the call. The bad guy always hangs up just before they made the trace. Why is it so hard?

See, on my phone, I have this wonderful invention called Caller ID? I know who’s calling even before I pick up the phone. Granted it’s not perfect, but my guess is that the police could get something better, like maybe a Police Caller ID. Failing that, doesn’t the phone company keep track of every phone call? I mean don’t they know from whom and to whom they’re routing the call?

So what’s the deal? Is this just a dramatic device left over from the technological dark ages or is there a real reason why law enforcement can’t do what my $10 Wal-Mart cordless phone can do?

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  • Yes, isn’t it stupid.  Another fact conveniently ignored by mystery – who-done-it writers is the reality that every man, woman and maybe the family dog has a cell phone.  I’ve gone crazy reading about someone in a car being chased by the bad guy, or the heroine roaming around in an alley unable to get help or warn anyone there’s trouble brewing.  “Where’s your stupid cell phone,” you scream at these hapless idiots.  But then if they had a cell phone the author couldn’t move them to the next situation he has planned. Guess technology isn’t helpful in all cases.

  • Presumably, the phone company could give law enforcement a form of Caller Id that overrides the block. After all, the block is put in place by the phone company and they know who is calling whom.

  • “It’s in the script.”

    I wonder how well slasher flicks will work now with nigh-ubiquitous cell phone coverage to catch murderers.  More bloody mountain getaways and cruise-liner incidents, I suppose.

  • Just to clarify, what prompted my rant was last night’s episode of “Lost” where Kate called the US Marshal from a payphone and set a kitchen timer to end the call. U, yeah, I think could have narrowed down her location pretty quick.

    Andy, thanks, that’s just the kind of expert info I wanted. I figured cell phones were more difficult, and certainly, RPF, VOIP is even more difficult.

    This is why people should password-protect their wireless routers. Otherwise anyone can pull up outside your house or business, hop online, and do anything and it will trace back to you and no one else.

  • Jen: Yup, Lost fan hardcore. It’s “smart” TV. You should see me comment on Lost blogs smile

    Also, my sister is friends with J.J. Abrams’ brother-in-law so she gets all kinds of cool info.

    I might start doing some Lost posts. I guess I’ve been letting people like Julie D. blog about it.

    Other very cool shows right now: Battlestar Galactica and Jericho. Very good TV.

  • Marion,

    I didn’t have a hand crank phone growing up, but I do remember that to make a local call, all you had to do was dial 4 digits. No prefix required.

    Now with area code overlays, many people have to dial 10 digits to make any call.

  • Hardcore Lost fan here too!!

    I’ve never seen Lost blogs and would appreciate a link or two – don’t know who Julie D is either.