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Lawyers, locals react to WPD's surveillance device


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- You might want to think twice about having your cell phone on you at all times.

The Wilmington Police Department has surveillance equipment called Stingray. It turns your phone into a tracking device, giving law enforcement crucial information on where you are. But it might violate your rights.

"Just don't commit crimes,” Wilmington resident Jordan Phelps said. “ I mean for some people, what's so private? What are you so worried about? 'Oh, they're checking me out. They're watching me.' They can watch me, I don't do anything.”

But Wilmington mother, Lindsay Maurice disagrees.

"I just feel like we all have a right to know what exactly it's being used for,” Maurice said.

She says while it might be an invasion of privacy, it could be used to help locate missing people, especially kids.

"I can definitely see some benefits to it if we're trying to track somebody down especially now with all the kids having cell phones,” Maurice said. “If one goes lost or is abducted somehow, then we are able to track it, you know, that's a great benefit to our community."

But attorney Preston Hilton says this is an invasion of privacy, much like the recent NSA scandal.

Plus he says the fact that the makers of stingray require police departments to sign a contract saying they won’t seek a warrant to use the device, is fishy.

"I certainly think that's a problem,” Hilton said. “That infringes on one's 4th amendment right. I think everyone has a right to privacy in their phone and in their communications."

"Basically stingray seems to me like, in my opinion, almost a big brother type matter,” Attorney Steve Fowler said.

Fowler says the law has not evolved to the level of technology we have today.

When we asked Wilmington police spokeswoman Linda Rawley about stingray yesterday, she said the department had no comment, and referred us to the FBI.

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