EDITORIAL: Kelsey’s Law May Save Lives

It’s been 10 years since 18-year-old Kelsey Smith was found dead in a wooded area in Missouri. She had been abducted at gunpoint, raped and then strangled to death by a total stranger after leaving a Target store in broad daylight at the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas.

Within a couple of hours a massive manhunt was underway. Kelsey’s dad, Greg Smith, a former law enforcement officer, didn’t need the police to tell him that the first 72 hours were crucial to finding Kelsey alive. He and his wife, Missy, also knew that locating Kelsey’s cellphone would significantly improve the efforts of law enforcement, but to their dismay, neither of those things happened. They learned later that Kelsey was dead within three hours, but it took more than three days to locate her body.

Repeated requests to Verizon by the Smiths and law enforcement to ping Kelsey’s phone were denied. Later, the Smiths learned that Verizon, unlike other telecommunications companies, did not have the technology to ping a phone. Three days following Kelsey’s abduction, the Smiths, armed with a court order, finally received mapping information from Verizon, showing where Kelsey’s phone had traveled. That led the FBI, several law enforcement agencies, and a host of family members and friends to a heavily wooded area across state lines in Missouri where Kelsey’s bruised, beaten and lifeless body was found.

Since her death, Kelsey’s parents have pushed for a bill in Congress that would require the FCC to provide cellphone location information to law enforcement to find a person at risk of death or serious physical harm due to being kidnapped and/or missing. Among the states, more than 20 have passed the Kelsey Smith Act, excluding D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

On Thursday, May 25, in observance of National Missing Children’s Day, the Smiths will travel back to Capitol Hill once again to urge Congress to pass a new Kelsey Smith Act, following an unsuccessful attempt last year. The Department of Justice reports that in 2016, 647,435 reports of missing persons were entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Of those reports, 88,040 remained active missing person records as of Dec. 31, 2016, and youth accounted for 38.3 percent.

We join the call to urge Congress and local legislators to take appropriate measures to adequately assist parents and law enforcement officials who are desperately searching for missing persons, especially children. It will go a long way to keep their hope alive.

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