Pursuing iPhone Thief, Officer Knew Right Buttons to Push
The New York Times
By C. J. HUGHES
January 27, 2012
As crime-solving tools go, it may not have the same pedigree as, say, the oversize magnifying glass. But with apologies to Sherlock Holmes, an iPhone — specifically, the iPhone 4 — proved quite useful in helping police officers track down a robber on Thursday in Manhattan.
And at a pace that may shock any reader of a long-winded Victorian detective novel, it was all wrapped up within a half-hour.
The case involved the robbery of a similar iPhone from a handbag store. On Friday, the arresting officer, Robert Garland, shared details about how the low-level crime occurred, and how the high-tech arrest was made.
At about 7 p.m. on Thursday, a cashier at Tuci Italia, at 1393 Avenue of the Americas, near West 57th Street, was taking a break near the entrance of the shop and watching videos on YouTube, Officer Garland said, noting she was wearing headphones.
Then, a man came into the shop, pointed a gun at her, grabbed her iPhone and fled, she told the police.
When Officer Garland and Sgt. Richard Coan arrived, they found the woman crying, but Mr. Garland reassured her. “I told her when I walked in, ‘I’m going to find your iPhone,’ ” he said.
The ace up the sleeve of Officer Garland, an avid Apple consumer — he and his wife own iPhones, iPads and Macintosh computers — was something called “Find My iPhone,” a free 5.4-megabyte piece of software, or app, that he had on the iPhone in his pocket.
Punching in the victim’s Apple ID, which is the log-on people use to buy, say, songs from iTunes, he quickly determined by the location of a small gray phone icon on a digital map that the robber was near Eighth Avenue and 51st Street.
As Officer Garland and his partner drove there, the signal source shifted, closer to Eighth Avenue and 49th Street. There, a man later identified by the police as George Bradshaw, 40, of New Lots, Brooklyn, stepped outside a Food Emporium.
Officer Garland pushed the “Play Sound” button on his phone. Instantly, a pinging beep — not unlike the sound of a submarine’s sonar — began emitting from Mr. Bradshaw, 20 feet away.
As the officers closed in, joined by another pair, the pinging stopped. Had Mr. Bradshaw been an Apple aficionado, he might have known how to disable the iCloud setting, which could have stopped the trace.
Instead, Officer Garland said, the suspect left the phone unchanged, and the officer hit “play” again, prompting another round of pings. Mr. Bradshaw was caught red-handed, or more specifically, with the stolen iPhone in his right sock, Officer Garland said. The victim later identified him as the robber, and the phone was recovered.
“She was ecstatic,” Officer Garland said.
Mr. Bradshaw, already facing charges in a cellphone theft last month, was charged with robbery and possession of stolen property.