In the end, Gassman got close, but the cell phone was maddeningly just out of reach.
But she was frustrated by what she saw was a lack of help from police, who could not help her retrieve her phone before it was turned off and likely lost forever.
"The fact that three different police departments couldn't help me during the time the perpetrator could have been apprehended is crazy," Gassman said.
Gassman's problem is one police say they encounter every so often, now that most people own cell phones they can track themselves. Sometimes officers can use the technology to quickly catch a cell phone thief.
Other times, legal and jurisdictional challenges make it nearly impossible to retrieve a phone, even if the GPS technology tells the rightful owner approximately where the phone is.
"Basically, at this point, we need the devices to provide us with better probable cause," Trent said. "They are not foolproof in spot-on pinpointing of locations."
And if the GPS trail leads to a place with many people, like a mall or a business, the phone's rightful owner is likely out of luck.
"If we track it to a parking lot with dozens, or hundreds, of cars, there's no way it's physically possible to make a lawful search," Trent said.
Other times, resources stand in the way of tracking stolen cell phones.
"If there is a good solid lead, an officer will be able to follow it," Blank said. "But stolen cell phones aren't always our highest priority."
But that doesn't make it less exasperating for cell phone owners who get close, but find that the phone is still far out of reach.
In Gassman's case, she traced the cell phone -- which was stolen Tuesday along with her wallet from a building in downtown
But then the phone moved to
Frustrated, Gassman called Patrick Metals and asked a supervisor for help locating her phone. She went to the site, and peeked in car windows and looked under bushes. She asked
"It's a lead that no one followed," Gassman said.
She reluctantly gave up her search when the phone was turned off, canceling the service and getting new identification and credit cards.
Trent said police have to handle such situations delicately, without stepping on an individual's civil rights, as the cell phone apps aren't always exact.
Still, he recommended people call police before they try to track down their stolen phones.
"I would advise people go to law enforcement before they knock on a door," Trent said.
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