Will tracking family members with GPS devices keep them safe?

Stock photo. Female texting on phone, Photo Date: 12/10/2011. Jhaymesisviphotography / CC BY 2.0

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -- With several missing persons cases of African American women and girls recently, one ending in the death of a three-year-old, you might be asking yourself should I be tracking my child?

Recent college graduate, Erin Campbell, said her family has.

“I use to go out after work and stuff but with all that’s been going on I go work, home, work, home,” said Campbell.

The kidnapping and gruesome death of three-year-old Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney and disappearances of college students 19-year-old Aniah Blanchard and 21-year-old Alexis Crawford, who both vanished within days of each other, Campbell said her family quickly came up with a game plan to keep track of each other by using an app on their cellphones.

“It’s easy to track location and see where it’s going,” said Campbell.

However, UAB cyber security expert and professor Ragid Hasan said not so fast.

“I don’t really believe in tracking devices because I know the limitations of these devices,” Hasan.

A father and husband, Hasan said not to depend solely on tracking devices.

“They can be disabled. They can be spoofed and also they’re tracking the phone, not the person,” warned Hasan.

Hasan warned a cell phone can be easily thrown away or destroyed by a criminal; the same goes for GPS devices that clip onto backpacks and shoes often used on younger children.

“A lot of these devices do not work in doors or they are out of range. They also run out batteries quickly,” said Hasan. “But they can also make a criminal think twice about taking your child. They may stop and think, someone may look for this person.”

Tracking devices should not be your only line of defense, according to Hasan, but a part of your protection plan.

“The solution is not technical rather more of the parent being more careful with their child,” said Hasan.

That includes checking-in and often. Which Campbell said she has started to do.

“I send a text message, to send my last location,” said Campbell.

If you have any information on where Aniah Blanchard or Alexis Crawford could be, call police.

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