Tracing A Phone Call Takes Time

This myth is an action movie staple because it creates a nice, dramatic scene with a lot of tension. The good guys are on the phone with the bad guy. They have to keep him talking for X seconds before they can trace the call and find his location. And they almost make it…but, of course, the bad guy always hangs up just before the trace completes.

In actuality, most of the time, police know where you are as soon as the call starts. And this isn’t just for landlines, either. It’s also true for cell phones since nowadays networks are required by the FCC to have location-tracking technology for this exact purpose. The only time when the movie scenario works, kind of, is when the bad guy is using a stolen phone or prepaid phone. And even then it doesn’t take 60 seconds–because it’s not the 1980s anymore.

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