In late December of last year, and only with tongue slightly in cheek, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed iDevice thefts for a rise in major crimes in the city. With the high rate of iPhone and iPad crime, the NYPD has assigned a team to work directly with Apple to try to recover the stolen devices, the New York Post reported on Friday.
That program is called "Operation ID." Every time an Apple iDevice is stolen, authorities first attempt to get the IMEI from the victim, which can then be used to track the device. Then, the team passes the number on to Apple, which then informs the NYPD of the device's location. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company can track the device even if it was jailbroken and unlocked and activated on a different carrier.
However, that does mean that the criminal has to have activated the device on a carrier. That won't work for wi-fi only devices or if the miscreant decides not to activate it on a carrier, which is possible for an iPad. An iPhone, naturally, without service is no better than an iPod touch.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said,
We’re looking for ways to find individuals who have stolen Apple products and return the products to their original owners. It is being done to learn the pattern [and] who is stealing.
As examples of the already successful partnership, one stolen iPad was tracked to the Dominican Republic; it was recovered with the aid of an NYPD intelligence officer assigned to Santo Domingo.
In another case, the team arrested a man who is suspected of selling stolen iPads at a city bus stop. Browne said:
We staked out the bus stop, IDed the suspect and arrested him. We recovered the iPad.
Browne added that most of the thefts are laundered locally. 74 percent, he said, of all stolen iDevices resurface within the five boroughs of New York.
In addition, many of the recovered devices were bought on the second-hand market by people who didn't know they were hot. As you might expect though, and as a cautionary tale, those devices are generally confiscated and returned to the original owner.
When Bloomberg blamed iDevice theft on the rise of New York City's major crimes in 2012, it was because the New York Police Department had recorded 3,484 more major crimes in 2012 than for the same period in 2011. Apple product thefts rose a surprisingly coincidental 3,890 during 2012.
Since the rise in major crimes was less than the rise in iDevice thefts, as Marc La Vorgna, the mayor's press secretary, said:
If you just took away the jump in Apple, we'd be down for the year.
In April of last year, the FCC and the Big Four wireless carriers said they were working together on a centralized database of mobile phones that have reported lost or stolen; devices in that database will be denied voice or data service if a user tries to activate them again.
That database, though, is not expected to go online until November.