Mobile theft prompts police to ask tech community for help

Mobile theft is a big concern of police departments, with the latest and greatest Android and iOS devices being targeted by thieves looking for a quick buck on the black market.

The problem is especially rampant in New York City, and the law enforcement community is being extra vigilant.

Police there have enlisted tech giants like Microsoft and Apple to help crack down on crime in general as well as the theft of mobile devices in particular.

Microsoft and the NYPD last year jointly developed a counterterrorism and crime prevention system to do things such as provide notifications about suspicious packages and vehicles, and allow NYPD personnel to search for suspects using technologies like smart cameras and license plate readers.

The Domain Awareness System aggregates and analyzes real-time data streams such as live camera feeds, 911 calls, and mapped crime patterns, providing cops and analysts with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity.

While the technology is impressive, privacy advocates have wondered how the DAS will ensure that its users are not engaging in "routine, unconstitutional warrantless surveillance" of the New York population.

More recently, the NYPD has started collaborating with Apple to track down stolen mobile devices.

According to The New York Post, Apple devices are ripped off so frequently that the NYPD has put together a special unit of officers who work with Apple to retrieve them.

When a person reports an iPhone or iPad missing, for example, the detectives work with the victim or search online records to ascertain the device’s International Mobile Station Equipment Identity number. Police share the number with Apple and the company then tells them where the device is located even if it was resold and registered to someone else.

One NYPD spokesperson said the special effort to return the products to their original owners is being done to learn the pattern of who is stealing.

New Yorkers considering buying a used Apple device from someone in the city might think twice. Police reportedly may return resold gadgets to their rightful owners, even if the person who bought it secondhand didn’t know it was stolen.

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