The Baltimore Police Department used controversial cell phone surveillance tools more than 4,000 times since 2007, an officer revealed this week, but has stayed largely silent on the topic until now upon orders from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a rare admission, Detective Emmanuel Cabreja testified in court on Wednesday that the city has deployed “cell site simulators,” including the increasingly prevalent StingRay device, 4,300 times during the last eight years. According to the Baltimore Sun, Cabreja said he personally used that tool, and another known as a ‘Hailstorm’, upwards of 800 times during only a two-year span.
When activated, portable machines like the StingRay mimic cell towers in order to trick mobile devices within a given range to send over data, giving police geolocation details and other information for upwards of thousands of phones in a single instance. Law enforcement agencies have increasingly relied on cell site simulators in recent years for the device’s ability to narrow in on suspects during criminal investigations.