The 9-1-1 service may have been failing when the president of the Cora restaurant chain, Nicholas Tsouflidis, called him to say he had just been kidnapped. But even if the call lasted more than 20 minutes, it is not necessarily easy to track and locate a cell phone in the area where the sequestration took place.
FROM ONE POLICE DEPARTMENT TO ANOTHER
While he was confined in the boot of a blue sedan, possibly branded Volvo, Nicholas Tsouflidis called 9-1-1. The appeal was automatically transferred to the Mirabel police service, where the abduction took place. But for some unexplained reason, the call was subsequently transmitted to another police force in the region, according to one source. This confusion, which would have contributed to delaying research, could be explained by the fact that Mirabel has its own 9-1-1 call center, but that certain sectors located to the northwest are adjacent to the MRC d' Argenteuil , Which also manages its own power plant. "In the northern region, there are several areas of entanglement. It is not impossible that the telephone has changed territory during the call.
POOR GPS TRACKING IN RURAL AREAS
As with most calls made to Canada with a mobile phone, 9-1-1 respondents were able to know the approximate position of Mr. Tsouflidis by triangulating the position of his telephone with cellular antennas. However, the precision is much lower in rural areas, such as the one where the kidnapping took place, since antennas are less numerous. "The realistic goal in rural areas is to have 500 meters of precision," says Bill Elliott, a telephone security specialist with the National Emergency Numbers Association. However, larger differences are not uncommon. "In more than 20% of rural calls, the uncertainty or vagueness transmitted to the emergency center exceeds 1000 meters," wrote coroner Gilles Saindon, In a report published in 2013 after the death of a man in Petton, in the Eastern Townships. In this case, the vagueness of the 9-1-1 triangulation was more than 5 kilo meters.
EVEN WORSE IN THE TRUNK OF A CAR
The fact that Mr. Tsouflidis was in the trunk of a sedan may have played an aggravating role that significantly undermined the positioning accuracy, Bill Elliott believes. "The triangulation mechanism works by calculating the distance at which the device is located from the antennas by counting microseconds. If there is a metal structure that bounces radio waves, it can have a very important impact, "he says.
CARS IN MOTION
In addition to the poor precision of triangulation positioning, the rescue services had to contend with the fact that the kidnappers' car was probably in motion. Since the 9-1-1 triangulation system only allows the position to be updated approximately once per minute, it is impossible to use it to track a move . As a result , the police had to scour a territory of about 20 square kilometers, bounded by Highway 440 to the north, Highway 13 to the east, Samson Boulevard to the south and Main Street to the west. "Activating the tracking system can drain the phone battery from the person in distress. It can be an extra problem when you're looking for someone," says one source .
40 YEAR OLD TECHNOLOGY
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is currently exploring the possibility of upgrading the technology used by the country's 9-1-1 stations. "It's a system that was created more than 40 years ago, at a time when fixed phones were the norm," said Bill Elliott . The new technology, called NG911 (Next Generation 911) , would allow mobile phones to send a much more precise position to the stations, using, among other things, the GPS chip of each device. "There is no technological limitation that prevents a better location system. It is really a matter of public policy and money. Changing the system would cost several million dollars, "says Elliott.
REQUEST FOR RANSOM TO FAMILY
According to our sources, it was to Mr. Tsouflidis' family and not the CEO of the Cora restaurants himself that his captors asked for a ransom, which would explain the confusion about the motive of the crime that existed during the 24 Hours following the abduction. The amount of the ransom requested was not known, but it would not have been paid. The police have every reason to believe that the victim was indeed kidnapped and that the kidnappers were at least two. It also appears that Mr. Tsouflidis did not remain in the car during the eight hours of his confinement. He was found about 16 kilometers from his home, which is relatively close . We do not know if he kept his cell phone until he was found.
Originally published in La Press