When a cellphone is reported stolen in New York, the Police Department routinely subpoenas the phone’s call records, from the day of the theft onward. The logic is simple: If a thief uses the phone, a list of incoming and outgoing calls could lead to the suspect.
But in the process, the Police Department has quietly amassed a trove of telephone logs, all obtained without a court order, that could conceivably be used for any investigative purpose.
The call records from the stolen cellphones are integrated into a database known as the Enterprise Case Management System, according to Police Department documents from the detective bureau. Each phone number is hyperlinked, enabling detectives to cross-reference it against phone numbers in other files.
What's particularly curious about this is that I doubt the NYPD is actually using the phone numbers to catch phone thieves. Indeed, NYT writes:
In interviews, detectives said that if an arrest occurs, it is often a result of earlier investigative steps. Chief Pulaski’s memos from Sept. 28 instruct detectives to use any tracking or location application on the victim’s phone to track down a suspect. Victims are asked to immediately call the phone carrier and learn the details of any phone calls placed after the theft. In addition, detectives ask the victim not to transfer their phone number to a new phone for about four days. Finally, detectives are then required to prepare a subpoena [to get the phone numbers], the results of which usually take a few weeks.
By then, most of the unsolved phone cases have been put on the back burner, and the subpoenaed records seldom lead to an arrest, four current and retired detectives said in interviews.
(Via Sam Antar)