San Francisco Tackles iPhone Theft
April 29, 2013 2:41 PM
Seventh and Market Street is the stolen iPhone marketplace
Police officers in the San Francisco Bay Area are currently trying to correct a serious, ongoing tech problem -- the stolen
San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity described how the cross at Seventh and Market Street in downtown San Francisco is the main place for selling/buying stolen iPhones.
Since about 48 percent of San Francisco residents use an iPhone, the device has a target on its back for theft. Thieves snatch the iPhones from unsuspecting texters on the street, switch their SIM cards (since carriers block SIMs reported stolen) and run to sell them on Seventh and Market.
According to Lookout, a mobile security firm, the total value of lost or stolen phones in the U.S. is approximately $30 billion a year. Many stolen phones bought here are often resold in other countries to escape being blacklisted by American carriers.
San Francisco police officers say nearly half of all robberies in the city involved smartphones last year. Police would use GPS sensors in stolen iPhones to trace their whereabouts, and most often, the phones would end up on Seventh and Market.
So what are police officers doing about this? Sting operations, where Officer Tom Lee is dressed more "streetlike" in a hoodie, jeans and sneakers and walks the streets of San Francisco with a bag of "stolen" iPhones to sell. He tells potential customers he has iPhones for sale, freshly stolen from the Apple Store, and that they should make him an offer (typically $25-$200).
The iPhones are borrowed from Apple for the sting operations, and Lee remains unarmed so that
don't figure out that he's a cop. However, two armed officers are nearby in street clothes to keep an eye on Lee, and more police officers await in an unmarked car down the street.
Buyers look the iPhones over to make sure they work, and once agreeing to the deal, offer Lee the cash. He accepts, and gives his fellow police officers a signal to make an arrest.
However, some disagree with this tactic. They say it invites crime rather than prevents it, and punishes unsuspecting buyers who may not be aware that the device is stolen.
In one case, where Lee once again played a decoy looking to sell iPhones, he forgot to tell the buyer that the iPhone was stolen. So when the buyer was arrested for making a deal, he was later released from the police station -- and got the $100 he paid for the iPhone, too.
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