Tampa police use controversial surveillance tactic
Tampa police are using a surveillance tactic that's been criticized as infringing on civil rights and even ruled unconstitutional in another state.
State of play: Creative Loafing's Justin Garcia reports that TPD has been using geofencing, which collects data from any electronic device in an area designated by police within a certain time range to investigate suspected crimes.
Why it matters: If your device goes near a geofence, you could find yourself the suspect of a crime — whether or not you committed one.
- Defense lawyers and civil rights advocates have argued that geofencing violates privacy protections in the Fourth Amendment, which bars police searches of citizens without probable cause.
The big picture: Thousands of innocent people are suspected of crimes each year through police geofencing, per The Harvard Law Review.
- In March, a federal judge in Virginia ruled the tactic unconstitutional when it was used during a bank robbery investigation in 2019.
- Here in Florida, a Gainsville man was falsely suspected of burglary after he rode his bike near an area that was geofenced in 2020.
Zoom in: TPD has used the tactic several times this year, according to public records requests from Creative Loafing.
- The department did not respond to Axios or Creative Loafing's requests for comment.
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