San Francisco cops go undercover in bid to halt Apple iPhone thefts

San Francisco cops go undercover in bid to halt Apple iPhone thefts
With nearly 1 out of every 2 residents in San Francisco wielding an Apple iPhone, the highest rate of any major city in the U.S., it is no surprise that cops in the area have been having a hard time dealing with thefts of the device. Law enforcement in the region decided that the best way to stop robberies involving Apple's iconic smartphone would be to reduce demand for the phone from those that buy such stolen merchandise. To achieve that goal, cops in the city have been going undercover, armed with boxes of the Apple iPhone to sell, donated to the cause by Apple. 

San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity compares the strategy to cutting the head off of a snake. "If they steal the phone but can't sell it, there's no market," he says. But others complain of entrapment. Not surprisingly, the main complaints come from the public defender's office. One such statement comes from Chesa Boudin, a San Francisco public defender who argues that, "You're basically creating crime or luring people to commit crimes."

In New York, a similar sting operation backfired when the undercover officer selling the Apple iPhone was alleged to have been too aggressive and would not take no for an answer from a potential buyer. 20 year old Robert Tester ended up paying $20 for an Apple iPhone hawked by the undercover cop because the officer said that he needed money to buy Christmas presents for his daughter. The charges were dropped, but the arrest caused Tester to miss work and he claims it has caused him psychological injury. Tester is suing the NYPD and the City for $150,000.

The strategy does come close to crossing over a gray line, but police feel it is something they have to do to try to slow down what has become an epidemic in New York. If not for Apple iPhone related robberies, the crime rate in New York City would have been down last year. To make the arrest valid, officers must remember to tell buyers that the phones they are selling have been stolen. The usual story given by the undercover cop is that the devices were lifted from a nearby Apple Store.

Besides the questionable legality concerning some of the arrests, another problem that has arisen is the number of Apple iPhones that become lost in the shuffle. The units given by Apple to the cops are loaners. A few times, the cops have turned over an iPhone to a buyer and the latter managed to run off with the handset, uncaught. This thought doesn't escape Capt. Garrity, who yells at his undercover team as they prepare to head out for an evening of busting buyers of stolen Apple iPhones. "Try not to lose the fucking phones!," Garrity screams out as the cops head to their squad cars.

source: HuffingtonPost via TUAW



1. sheik

Posts: 249; Member since: Sep 12, 2012

God, why is such a rage for iDevices in US?

4. HASHTAG unregistered

You can make a huge profit off those them. Lol.

9. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Let's think, thieves steals not only iPhones, but for some reasons publishes only iPhone theft stories, hm... iteresting why??? (rhetorical question) ;)

2. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Wait, I thought we can't say bad words in PhoneArena. And Alan F. said a bad word, where is it? All you have to do is to read the article until almost the end, then you'll know what I mean! :P

8. buccob

Posts: 2978; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

I guess it does not matter if its a quote... ?

11. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Yup, you're right!

10. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Alan F. just quoted what Garrity screamed out.

13. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

I know, but it is still a bad word! :)

14. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

True. :)


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Honestly, I just think this is an excuse by said cops to hang out in the Castro area of old San Fran'. Besides, anyone knowingly buying a stolen sh€€p phone is doing a very baaa-haaa-haaaaaad thing and deserves to be iMpriSoned. IMHO

5. baller23

Posts: 27; Member since: Apr 18, 2013

iThief :D

6. teerex42

Posts: 221; Member since: Jun 14, 2012

Who would want to steal any icrap's lmao!!!!!!! If u r going to steal any phone it would be an android phone, especially the new Samsung Galaxy S4 that's out!!!!!

7. chaoticrazor

Posts: 2347; Member since: Aug 28, 2012

why? you do realise idiot iphones have high resale and are still sought after. there easy to shift and sell android phones not so much.

21. Daftama

Posts: 641; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

They thing new is better lol icrap 4s still has a better vaule than s4 or just about the same lol

12. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Itheft are so stupid. And another reason not too own a iphone too many thefts out there.

15. Aeires unregistered

Chicago has been having similar problems on the L trains. Thieves spot iUsers by their white earbuds, stand out and is easily spotted as targets.

17. TheMan

Posts: 494; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

I find it noteworthy that it was Apple providing the phones. For years, consumers have been complaining that the carriers do little about smartphone theft. Some believe that AT&T, et al, may turn a blind eye to it because theft increases sales. Either way, I'm glad it's being done.

19. Penny

Posts: 1869; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

I'm all for performing sting operations like this because it greatly reduces the market for such crimes. However, as far as the notion of entrapment is concerned, I would say that the penalty for the people that get stung should be a fine rather than an arrest and jail time. I think it would be much easier to rationalize a fine, and much easier to argue that it isn't really entrapment. (Not to mention that jails are overcrowded, and I'd rather have dangerous criminals in there than fairly functional functional citizens that just got tempted by a shady deal on a gadget.)

20. MyJobSux

Posts: 106; Member since: Apr 01, 2012

I really dont think the manufactuer and carrier do enough to prevent theft. So Apple donates a few phones, the article says their "loaners" so if the cops lose them in a sting, their out the cost of the phone. So Apple isnt really "donating" anything. Phone carriers and retailers could track phones via serial number and refuse to activate phones that are stolen or lost without the customer visiting a brick and mortar to verify they are the owner. Its just like with credit cards and checks. Retailers dont want to ask for a photo ID. Its all the same deal. They dont want to complicate the sale so they will take the risk of fraud, they consider fraud acceptable and common place in buisness. When fraud happens the only one that wins is the criminal. The bank will give the patron their money back, the bank will not pay the retailer and the retailer writes off the loss as a cost of doing buisness. The retailer is left with the responsibility of filing a report to have authorities track down the criminal. Since the retailer writes it off, the criminal just moves onto the next victem without incident. Things are the way they are because retailers and the manufactuer dont truely care. If someone steals your phone, you get a new one. The retailer might luck out and you will just buy one or insurance will cover it for you. The manufacter wins out because thats another device sold, doesnt matter why it was sold, its sold and their happy. Think of it in terms like this. A gun and ammunition manufactuer makes money if their product is used to hunt, defend the rights and freedoms of a country or perform a drive by shooting that kills innocent children. They make money reguardless. I support the right to bear arms, dont think I dont, I just used this to make a blunt point.

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