Forgot your password?
Crime Handhelds Iphone

Death Wish Meets GPS: iPhone Theft Victims Confronting Perps 664

Posted by timothy
from the charles-bronson-not-involved dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Thankfully, no one's gone full-Charles-Bronson yet, but the NY Times reports that victims of smartphone theft are using GPS to take the law into their own hands, paying visits to thieves' homes and demanding the return of their stolen phones. "The emergence of this kind of do-it-yourself justice," writes Ian Lovett, "has stirred worries among law enforcement officials that people are putting themselves in danger, taking disproportionate risks for the sake of an easily replaced item." And while hitting "Find My iPhone" can take you to a thief's doorstep, LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith urges resisting the impulse to do so. "It's just a phone," he said. "it's not worth losing your life over. Let police officers take care of it. We have backup, guns, radio, jackets — all that stuff civilians don't have.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Death Wish Meets GPS: iPhone Theft Victims Confronting Perps

Comments Filter:
  • Re:frosty piss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:48AM (#46913047) Homepage
    I remember a time when I had a 2800$ laptop stolen a number of years ago id say around 2003. I knew who did it, I had proof of him bragging about it, and i brought this to the cops who promptly did jack shit about it. In the end I got my laptop back, and some...interest on top. the person who stole it from me? I cant be sure but I highly doubt he stole from anyone again

    long story short, cops these days dont give a flying fuck about helping us with crime, all they care about is keeping the money rolling in
  • Except in the US (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Diddlbiker (1022703) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:53AM (#46913083)
    In the rest of the world a stolen smartphone will get bricked, but carriers are working against that in the US. I guess because stolen phones mean people will have to buy replacements and they'll get the kickbacks from Apple and Samsung for that. As long as stolen phones keep working in the US, they'll continue to be stolen.
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:59AM (#46913121)
    Dead on. The police could do their jobs and get the phone and even take a crook of the streets at the same time. Instead if a location of a stolen phone is reported they just brush it off and tell you that your $500+ item is "easily replaceable" and that you should forget about all of the personal stuff on it. They can't be bothered. I wonder why people respect police less and less every day. I'm surprised that they don't point out that while the police have guns and all that other stuff, and the bad guys likely have guns, in many states the victims don't have guns because the laws prevent it. And prevent you from even having bullet proof vests too!
  • Re:two problems... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @12:01PM (#46913135) Homepage
    you know I see a market here. Phone bounty hunters.
  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @12:18PM (#46913229)

    "and risk the life of an officer." That was the answer from the San Diego police department when my friend's sone lost his iPhone in a major hotel out of the dining room.

    My friend is an attorney involved in major San Diego port affairs. Made no diff. "We don't go into that barrio without a SWAT team."

  • Then... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @12:30PM (#46913293)

    "It's just a phone," he said. "it's not worth losing your life over.

    Then why do they have guys with guns guarding banks and jewelry stores?

  • Re:frosty piss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @01:07PM (#46913543) Homepage
    well i went over there and demanded my laptop back and i may or may not have had about 10 people with me at the time. He promptly gave me my laptop back, and he "thanked" me by also giving me his xbox and playstation, his big screen tv and car stereosystem.
  • by RicktheBrick (588466) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @01:38PM (#46913739)

    I am sure that every thief would risk life in prison or even death over a phone. Than there is my case. I was walking in a park and happen to notice a phone on the trail. It was in three parts(phone, battery, and cover). It was wet so I took it home and used a hair dryer to dry in out. After I put it back to together, it worked. It did not have any identification on it so I called the numbers in the contact list. One of the contacts did call the owner who did call me. I answered on their phone and after finding out where they lived I drove over there and gave them back their phone. I did not get any reward of any kind so I did all of this out of the kindness of my heart. In the vast majority of the cases, I would think they would end peacefully but is it worth the risk even if it is one out of a thousand cases that end up bad?

  • Re:frosty piss (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @02:02PM (#46913897) Homepage

    And all that at the lowly sum of $ka-ching/hour.

    I don't really buy the whole cost of enforcement argument.

    Enforcing the law almost always costs more than the actual crimes do when looked at in isolation. However, enforcing the law is still important, because it can prevent crime.

    If everybody knows that you can rob somebody in broad daylight and nobody will do anything about it, then society will rapidly devolve into crime and vigilantism. On the other hand, if everybody knew that even stealing a piece of candy from a store would result in a near-certainty of arrest, then you'd see almost all crime go away. People commit crimes because they perceive the reward as being greater than the risk.

    So, by spending $8k to recover a $500 phone and make the life of the guy who stole it miserable can go a long way to preventing phone theft. Do that thoroughly enough, and suddenly you don't find yourself having to spend all that much money on enforcement because people stop breaking the law.

    Of course, for phones there is a simpler and cheaper technological solution and that is IMEI blacklisting. However, the argument still stands for other forms of petty crime. If I were in charge and somebody reported their radio stolen from their car, I'd dust the car for prints, check camera footage, and when I track down the teenager who stole the phone they'd be showing up at a labor camp for 6 hours a day for two years, while attending classes to learn something productive for another 4 hours a day, and then they'd be sent home with a monitoring anklet and an MRE in payment for their labor. Sure, it would cost more than just letting them play loose on the street, but taxpayers would save money on repairs, and maybe society would benefit from more skilled laborers and fewer leaches.

  • by tragedy (27079) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @02:34PM (#46914125)

    I remember when my car was stolen right out of a mall parking lot quite a while back now. I met the police in the mall security office. They literally laughed in my face about the whole thing while taking the report. They also obviously weren't bothered with checking surveillance video since they were in the security office at the time and didn't even ask mall security about it.
    My car was later found abandoned on the side of the road with the battery dead (it turned out I had a failing alternator, which may have saved me the whole car). After it was found, the officer following up was very interested in questioning _me_ about why there was a scale in the trunk (it was a broken one from the bakery I was working in at the time).

  • Re: frosty piss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @04:07PM (#46914765) Homepage Journal

    My wife had her purse stolen last year by a student. We sat down in her principal's office, located it, and the police officer recognized the address immediately. 20 minutes later. The perp was telling the office where the rest of the contents of the purse had been dumped. In this case, the alternative was to go back to jail, which the kids did anyways. Parole violation.

    But the office let slip that the department already knew how to locate iPhones even without the owner's knowledge. Perhaps we could hold the trial on chain of evidence right after the drug case where the police tracked everyone by their phones. Though in hindsight the police do make a habit of having it both ways.

  • Re: frosty piss (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @05:20PM (#46915171)

    Police in the US often have very, very local funding sources: Asset seizures and fines go into the police budget. That creates a strong incentive to prosecute crimes that are cheap to catch and lucrative in income - with speeding being at the very top of that. Low- and mid-level drugs crime is also popular because it often leads to vehicle and property seizures.

  • Re:Funding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rahvin112 (446269) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @05:56PM (#46915333)

    That would be the case if population and size of patrol areas wasn't increasing. Almost all cities are growing, increased population, increased density and increased size. Inflation only counts on increases in costs, not growth.

    The reason cops are interested in theft is it's not as lucrative as drug crime. Most departments spend almost all their police time on drug crime because in the 80's the government relaxed seizure laws and allowed the local cops to keep any drug money and assets seized. Most police departments benefit directly from this and will spend almost all their time locating and seizing money and assets, even going as far as taking poor people's car's for buying a joint (a rather memorable cops episode).

    Until we end the war on drugs and roll back all the seizure laws cops aren't going to be interested in petty crime. Before the war on drugs you could actually get the cops to investigate car theft and muggings, now they don't even care.

  • Re: frosty piss (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Githaron (2462596) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @07:29PM (#46915633)
    I think all funds generated through traffic tickets should go to an untouchable fund. Once a year citizens of the jurisdiction have the options of submitting a charity in which they would like the funds to go. Once the submissions are counted, the fund is split amoung the submitted charities based on the percentage split of the submissions, That way government jurisdictions can't use traffic violations as a means of funding.
  • by catmistake (814204) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @11:41PM (#46916431) Journal

    Unfortunately that sign on their car door "To serve and protect", they serve and protect the state. Getting back your iPhone does little to serve and protect the state.

    I don't like making generalized statements, however, and shame on me if the description doesn't fit, I'm about to do so. And I don't mean to even criticize the Police in general, because among their ranks are everyday heros and legitimate true, ready to lay down their lives, heros. But to make an observation that I'm sure others have noticed, that even though police

    have backup, guns, radio, jackets — all that stuff civilians don't have

    it seems at times the choices that the individual police officers we hear about are neither motivated by duty to protect the public nor the state, but themselves first and foremost. Speaking as a coward, fear of injury/death and self-preservation are instincts that are not easily overcome, but members of various US Special Forces and Military, firefighters and deep water and swift water rescue teams, perhaps out of bravado (but so what?), seem to have little trouble doing so. What is it about police duty that makes them less heroically suicidal than those that choose these other careers, when one should expect the vocation to attract the very brave and incorruptable, and those as close to real "superheros" as we can get, like the other vocations I mentioned?

    For those civilians that carry weapons for self-defense, no one should have to remind you that the origin of your right to do so was originally one of selflessness, i.e. to protect your defenseless neighbors at risk to your own life or property, either from raiding parties, foreign enemies, crime, or the government. I also would like to emphatically applaud the unarmed bystanders that bravely risked their lives to save a Memphis Police officer today. [] That is amazing to me... because I just know I would have been running away from obvious danger, and not towards it, as fast as my feet could carry me. And I would not be proud of myself for surviving.

    FWIW, material items are definately not worth even risking injury over, let alone risking life. But another life, or multiple lives is worth that risk, and we know this because we have a word for people like that and you probably noticed me using it a lot, and I do because I am facinated by... our heros.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann