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109th takes bite out of thefts of Apple iPhone

Police Officer Frank Soohoo Jr. inspects an iPhone handed to him by a resident hoping to activate tracking software on the much-sought-after device.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Technocrats in the 109th Precinct are taking a novel approach to fighting iThieves, the latest scourge terrorizing the neighborhood.

Officers set up a table along Main Street near Roosevelt Avenue Friday to register iPhone and iPad owners for a program that can track their devices should they fall into the wrong hands, which according to the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Brian Maguire, happens frequently.

“At night around here, the iPhone is like a beacon for criminals,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest targets.”

Unsuspecting victims often whip out their phones or tablets as soon as they emerge from the No. 7 train station downtown, trying to catch a signal as soon as it is available.

It presents a perfect opportunity for thieves, but with the registration program, police have an extra weapon on their side.

On Friday, Apple owners gave their information, including serial numbers, to the officers at the table, who then registered them with the technology company’s application Find My iPhone.

If a phone or tablet is ever lost or stolen, the victim can approach any officer who also has an iPhone.

By calling up the app and typing in a password, the program draws on the registration information and activates the GPS positioning system in the stolen device.

The app then gives officers a road map to where the phone is, and it is a road cops in the precinct have traveled before.

On June 27, a 15-year-old girl reported her iPhone stolen to police at the 109th Precinct. She had registered with the program and had called up the location of the phone on an iPad.

When officers followed the map to the location, they arrested 23-year-old Gabriel Bazan, who police said was in possession of an iPhone protected by a cat-shaped green protective case, complete with a set of ears.

“In the event a phone is lost or stolen, this will increase the chances that we will recover it and make an arrest,” Maguire said at the registration table, which was mobbed with people jostling for position.

According to Community Affairs Detective Kevin O’Donnell, the precinct had registered 127 people by the end of the session and plans were in the works to expand the program throughout the precinct, which covers Downtown Flushing, East Flushing, Queensboro Hill, College Point, Malba, Whitestone, Beechhurst and Bay Terrace.

The iPhone is such a popular target because thieves can easily resell it on the street for cash, police said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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