It takes a long time to trace a phone call.
Don’t believe that!
The serial killer places a call to the detective on his case, just to taunt him. Another cop fires up his computer and starts a trace on the call… “Keep him on the phone as long as you can!” he whispers, frantically typing on his keyboard. Alas, the bad guy is one step ahead and hangs up just seconds before the trace can be completed.
This scene is very common in movies and TV and is still frequently seen today, even though calls have been instantly traceable on land lines for over 25 years!
Prior to the mid-1980s, switchboard operators had to manually connect circuits. It took ten minutes or longer to pinpoint a caller’s exact location. Electronic switching systems eliminated the need for human operators and gave the phone company the ability to identify the caller’s number almost instantaneously. This is great news for all us non-serial killers, as it enables the 911 service to dispatch assistance with no delay. And no, punching in *67 before dialing will not hide your number from the phone carrier – or the police – only from the other party’s caller ID.
Cell phones are not tied to a physical location, but are also traceable, due to a 2006 FCC order. Since that time, cell phone networks are required to utilize location-tracking technology, to assist 911 services. Using cell tower triangulation of the signal from your phone, the police can determine your position within one house away from your actual location.