aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

With Find My iPhone you, too, can be a crime fighter


Last month, David Pogue, the New York Times tech guy, had a story about how after someone stole his phone, he used his Find My iPhone app and his 1.4 million (no, that’s not a typo) Twitter followers and a nice cop to get his phone back after it was stolen on an Amtrak train.

You can read the whole story here.

Our exerience
A few months ago, Teen got her phone and wallet stolen while she was at a all-ages venue. The next morning, we used Find My iPhone to track it to a very sketchy area in outer SE Portland. It was at an apartment complex. Sadly, the app isn’t so granular that it will show which apartment it is in, so we were reduced to going door to door and asking tenants if they knew who had “accidentally” picked up her phone. Most of them spoke Korean, Spanish, or Russian. Or they asked their five-year-old to translate. Or the only person who answered the door was a five-year-old, with no adults in sight.

We did not recover the phone.

What has dozens of yellow cars parked in front of it?
That night, Teen checked it again. It had moved to a new location. Satellite view showed it was a building with a couple of dozen yellow cars parked in front of it. We did some Googling and figured out yellow cars = yellow cabs = Broadway Cab. The phone did not move, so we thought it must be in someone’s personal car. I tried talking to the dispatcher, a crusty old guy, and told him the address. He wasn’t able to help me, but he did say it was policy for cabdrivers to turn in anything they found.

By the next morning, the phone was back at the apartment again. This time we went back with a question: does anyone in this apartment building work for a cab company?

And they all pointed at the same apartment in the corner.

Eventually we were able to talk to the taxi driver on Teen’s phone. He offered to give it back to her for $50. (I think it's likely that whoever stole her phone left it in his cab.) I thought about protesting, but it seemed likely that the phone might simply disappear or end up in someone else’s hands. So we got $50 from an ATM.

The handoff
Teen had arranged to meet him in front of The Hilton. She was afraid he might turn tail if he saw two angry parents waiting with her, so she wanted to do the trade herself. I told her, no matter what you do, don’t get into his car. I don’t care what he says, or what he does, or if he says the phone is in another location - do NOT get in his cab.

We parked up the block. I gave her my cell phone. She walked down to stand in front of the Hilton, while my husband waited on the corner opposite with his cell phone.

A yellow cab pulled up. A guy got out and started talking to Teen. I couldn’t see any detail - not what he looked like, not his license plate, not his cab number.

But what I did see was: Teen getting into the back seat of the car.

My heart nearly stopped. But it turned out she had called and cleared it with my husband - she wanted to check to see if her stolen wallet was there, too.

What if...?
So it all turned out okay. But can’t you see it as the great beginning to a book - the door slams, the cab takes off, the girl is gone. Why would someone take her? Was it all a carefully planned ruse to get the girl by getting her phone first? Is she even the real target? Or is it one of the parents, who can only get her back by turning over money or a secret or....

That’s how all my books begin. Thinking “What if....”

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Tags: real life, what if?
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