Kansas City mom’s slaying brings 911 location service limitations to light
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Questions remain about a 911 call placed nearly 12 hours before a Kansas City woman was found dead and her daughter severely beaten and hospitalized in critical condition with head trauma.
Neither police nor prosecutors can confirm to FOX4, but indications are now that police likely responded in some fashion after getting a 911 call with an open line and fighting in the background just after 6 a.m., January 15th.
It’s unclear what dispatchers and police were immediately able to uncover after that call placed from the phone of Mackenzie Hopkins, and it may shed light on issues 911 dispatchers still deal with despite the modern technology and constant communication cell phones provide applications with location data.
Family asked for a welfare check and Hopkins was found dead in a bathtub in a home in the 7300 block of Wabash shortly before 6 p.m. that same day. Police would later track down video showing the suspect left the home a minute after that 911 call with an open line where dispatchers heard fighting in the background, then returned within the hour, and left for good before 9 a.m.
Kansas City police say they can’t comment on what happened after the 911 call now that Jose Escalante Corchado has been arrested and there are charges in the case. There’s no mention of police response to the initial 911 call in court documents.
But police say when no one can provide information to dispatchers about exactly what’s happening or where they generally dispatch an officer to find out, if they can determine the location.
FOX4 went to the agency that oversees 911 dispatch centers in 10 metro counties to see how that works. MARC sends your 911 call to the city where its computers believe you are most likely to be based on proximity to cell phone towers, responding sectors and population density.
“All we know in this instance is the caller is calling from somewhere in this shaded area,” Hasaan Al-Rubaei, MARC Public Safety Technical Services Manager, pointed out on a 911 call where location couldn’t be determined.
Then through relatively new RAPID SOS technology, they may be able to quickly give dispatchers a better picture of your location using all the sensors apps on your phone already use like GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
“We have this other location across the street and that’s the rapid SOS provided location and you can see this is two different houses,” Al-Rubaei showed on a different active call during our interview.
But there are hundreds of 911 calls each day that can’t access Phase 2 technology for one reason or another.
“What we use for 911 today was put into place many years ago. All these apps have come on the scene and technology has just flown by 911, and 911 is playing catch up,” Al-Rubaei said.
Even though in Hopkins’ case the call likely came from her own home, there’s no master database for dispatchers to match cell phone numbers with home addresses. Only 10% of 911 calls these days come from landlines.
Al-Rubei isn’t privy to what info showed up on dispatcher’s screen that day, but says the public always should know: “There’s no guarantee that the person who receives your 911 call is going to know where you are.”
Because of a local case, if someone is deemed to be in imminent danger, police across the country can force cellphone carriers to turn over location data, under the Kelsey Smith Act. But that can take time.
MARC does require all dispatchers in the metro using its technology to call back 911 hang-ups, but there’s no automatic location service available on that call.
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