When hitting ‘Find My iPhone’ takes you to a thief’s doorstep

New York Times:

In San Diego, a construction worker who said his iPhone had been stolen at a reggae concert chased the pilferer and wound up in a fistfight on the beach that a police officer had to break up. A New Jersey man ended up in custody himself after he used GPS technology to track his lost iPhone and attacked the wrong man, mistaking him for the thief.

Even an off-duty Los Angeles police detective pursued his son’s phone, which had been stolen at a soccer game. The officer, who asked that his name not be used for fear that civilians would follow his example, and his son used GPS to track the phone leaving the field.

They got in the car and followed it — first to a mall, then to a nearby home. The officer knocked on the door, and then his son called the phone, which went off inside the bag of the boy who had taken it from the field.

The officer urged anyone whose phone is stolen to call the police, noting that he had had three other off-duty officers with him.

Interesting read and solid advice. If someone steals your phone, call the police.



  • BC2009

    The problem is that police will rarely do anything about a stolen phone other than file the report under a stack of higher priority crimes. When citizens feel they have no recourse they tend to take matters into their own hands regardless of how serious the consequences may be.

    Best advice is to not leave your phone lying around. Too many people go to the park or the beach and leave their phone unattended. Keep it on your person or give it to somebody you trust to watch it or simply leave it in a locked car. If you do these simple things then the exposure to theft is seriously reduced (limited to pick-pockets, muggers or those willing to break into your car).

  • lucascott

    If your phone is lost or stolen it is not worth it to risk your life trying to recover it yourself. It can be replaced. Especially if you have been savvy and it’s covered under some kind of insurance.

  • Jim

    Yes, call the police. For no other reason than to file a police report.

    However, there are a great number of well-substantiated tales where the police refuse to bother with a stolen phone or computer – even when obvious tracking data or remote use of built-in webcams are available. So don’t expect to get much more than the police report.

    But should you go to track down a phone – definitely have backup. And preferably, someone taking video.

  • Douglas

    A friend left his in the back of a taxi one night after a few too many drinks. Next day he called the taxi company but they knew nothing about it. Later that day he got a notification from the phone and then managed to track it to a home about 20 minutes south.

    He drove to the house and knocked on the door – not surprisingly the cab driver answered it, apparently the look on his face was priceless!

    Long story short, he got his phone back, but only just. As he was walking back to his car, he passed a nasty looking character walking up to the front door, their eyes met briefly in a moment of understanding, then he got in his car and got the hell out of there. If he’d turned up five minutes later his phone would have been gone.

    So yes, probably best not to go chasing it.