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Child rescued in Washington County after iPhone app tracks suspected kidnapper

Parents and police used technology to track down the kidnapper
Madison Paige Ling
Madison Paige Ling(Harris County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 1:48 PM CST
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BRENHAM, Texas (KBTX) - A 9-year-old child was found safe in Brenham early Thursday morning after being taken from a home in Houston.

Officials with the Houston Police Department say a mother reported that a babysitter took the boy from an apartment complex in the 10,000 block of Forum West Drive in Houston around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Investigators with the Houston Police Department were able to track the suspect’s phone to Washington County. According to a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, they were notified by officials in Houston at 2 a.m. of the kidnapping and location of the suspect.

Around 2:45 a.m., sheriff’s deputies conducted a felony traffic stop in the 2000 block of Old Independence Road where the child was found safe. Authorities say the suspect, Madison Paige Ling, was driving the vehicle accompanied by a man who is not thought to be involved in the kidnapping.

The driver and the boy were released to investigators with the Houston Police Department. The male passenger was released at the scene.

Ling was booked into the Harris County Jail on one charge of kidnapping and is expected to make her first appearance in court on Monday.

Cybersecurity experts and missing person investigators say technology and tracking software are helping close investigations more quickly.

Chuck Fleeger is the Executive Director of the Amber Alert Network of the Brazos Valley. He says while some technology can be a hassle, some have life-saving benefits.

“If we think about it, we, as a society, we give a lot of our information to technology and those entities to make our life easier. We tell the map where we’re at, so it can help us figure out the shortest distance. We give that app our credit card number and our address and our name and our dates of birth to set up these accounts, because it makes things easier for us,” said Fleeger.

“It’s just a flip side of that. It’s also necessary for that information for those authorities that are looking to locate that missing person, to verify their welfare, that they are able to have that connectivity,” said Fleeger. “That connectivity can serve a good purpose.”

Fleeger says some investigations that would have taken days to solve are now being solved in hours.

“Before all this technology, before this interconnectedness that we have, it was really, it would be a testimonial of have you seen this person? Do you know where this person is?” said Fleeger.

Drew Hamilton is the director of the Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center. He says when it comes to apps and tracking you should look at each app and decide if the benefits outweigh the risk.

“I think you have to do that on a case-by-case basis. One of the biggest challenges, not just in terms of privacy, but also in terms of cybersecurity because it is an individual decision. We’re forcing people to have to make these kinds of decisions themselves. So for me, in my line of work I pretty much turn location services off for most things,” said Hamilton.

“It’s time consuming. It’s a lot easier just to turn everything on and do all these permissions, and I think for individuals, you have to make an informed decision,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton says from a safety perspective certain apps have their advantages.

“To me, the advantage of having the cell phone outweighs the risk of someone tracking me because I really don’t care if people know I’m here in the Houston building at Texas A&M University,” said Hamilton. “That doesn’t bother me a lot.”

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