Fitness technology helping central Pa. law enforcement

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Fitbit helped solve a crime in Lancaster County and members of central Pennsylvania law enforcement say it represents a bigger trend in the area.

East Lampeter Township police say 43-year-old Jeannine Risley reported she was raped by a stranger. Police found overturned furniture, a knife, and a bottle of vodka in her home, but after reviewing her Fitbit, detectives say she staged the crime scene.

“We’ve become a very electronic-oriented society,” Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo said.

He went on to say that most modern phones automatically tell the phone companies where you are when you make a call. Now, detectives are also trained to look for the GPS locators that typically accompany fitness apps and smartphones.

“Even the absence of evidence can sometimes be indicative,” Chardo said. “You’ve got a person who always has their cellphone on, who’s making calls all the time, and then they go dark for a period of six hours – and it happens to be the critical six hours of when they were committing the crime.”

It’s not just location. Fitness apps can also show what time you’re moving and how fast you’re going. But your Fitbit doesn’t magically create the numbers; you still have to do the workout. It’s the same for law enforcement.

“It still takes good, old-fashioned police work and leg work to figure it out,” Chardo said. “It takes a police mind to say ‘Hey, wait a minute, we should check this out.’ ”

“So, it’s a piece of evidence that fits in with all the other evidence that can be very, very helpful,” Chardo added.

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