I was thinking what would be the best way to locate a stolen motorcycle. The simplest solution I tough of was to hide a small smartphone inside the bike and use it to locate it. The problem is that thieves often transport stolen motorcycle insides shielded vans to avoid GPS tracking. But GPS signals are "easy to be shielded", GSM less easy. So my question is: can a phone (tuned on) be located by law enforcement only with IMEI and phone number after having pressed charges (European jurisdiction)? I'm talking about grid location, even in case internet connection isn't available (no google location services).
This is not accurate at all, although network based positioning in a very congested urban area can be accurate down to a sub-100m radius with a sufficient concentration of cell sites, in most cases of suburban areas it is more like 1-2km radius at best, in rural areas can be in excess of 10km, and in some areas where cell sites maybe 30km+ a part and none or minimally overlapping, you can only say it's within a 30km-60km circle.
- Source plus personal experience working in the telecommunications industry for over 25 years
But that is just the technical aspect of it, the other aspect is the legality of it... You can't just call the local police and say "My phone/motocycle/car was stolen, but you can cell site position it from my phone that the GPS isn't usable" and they flip a switch and get the information, this requires a court order, and in non-life threatening cases this can take several days to weeks to obtain, and to be honest, some carriers don't track cell site positioning data that long, not to mention your stolen bike has probably been striped down or shipped a thousand miles away by then. Again, this comes from my experience in working in the telecommunications industry, both in the wireless industry and PSAP infrastructure.
So, is it possible, yes... is it viable, almost always no.
There are devices meant especially for this type of situation on the market, but to be honest unless your wheels are extremely rare the cost of them would likely make it a better decision to lower your deductible on your insurance and in the rare chance a thief does make off with your ride, let him have it, pay the deductible and get a new one and you will be money ahead.