Crime and Punishment

Police Warn Not to Hunt and Attack Thieves Using ‘Find My iPhone’

Don’t be a hero.
This is what we imagine phone thieves look like. Do not approach! (photo via *Sax, CC-BY-2.0)

This is what we imagine phone thieves look like. Do not approach! (photo via *Sax, CC-BY-2.0)

Apps that track your mobile devices are great for that Sunday morning when you can’t figure out if your phone is at the club, in a cab, or just in your damn pocket. But be careful where your phone-finding quest takes you — you could wind up meeting the person who stole it, and they might not be excited to see you.

Police are more and more concerned that apps like “Find My iPhone” are encouraging people to chase down and confront thieves, according to the New York Times. Theft victims have done everything from setting elaborate traps for thieves to teaming up with friends for a vigilante joy-ride — apparently hammers are popular on the list of scary weapons with which to intimidate phone-snatchers.

But if the day comes when you have to recover your sensitive emails and naked selfies, do not go running off with a friend, a hammer or any weapons at all. Just call the cops.

“Let police officers take care of it,” Cmdr. Andrew Smith of the LAPD told the Times. “We have backup, guns, radio, jackets — all that stuff civilians don’t have.”

And remember, just because you know someone stole your phone, doesn’t mean you have the right to violently assault them or break into their home to retrieve it. Those things are still illegal, even if the thief is starting to tweet porn from your verified account.

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com