A secretive cellphone spy device known as StingRay, intended to fight terrorism, was used in far more routine LAPD criminal investigations 21 times in a four-month period during 2012, apparently without the courts' knowledge that the technology probes the lives of non-suspects who happen to be in the same neighborhood as suspected terrorists.
According to records released to the First Amendment Coalition under the California Public Records Act, StingRay, which allows police to track mobile phones in real time, was tapped for more than 13 percent of the 155 "cellular phone investigation cases" that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year.
As L.A. Weekly first reported in September, LAPD purchased StingRay technology sometime around 2006 with federal Department of Homeland Security funds. The original DHS grant documents said it was intended for "regional terrorism investigations."
But the newly released LAPD records show something markedly different: StingRays are being deployed for burglary, drug and murder investigations.