How police are stopping iPhone theft

Say you're sitting at the food court devouring your Big Mac when all of a sudden some guy walks up to you with a turtle neck, glasses, looking like the next Steve Jobs, and he offers you an iPhone for $50. Even with this guy's looks, no one offers something that valuable away for that cheap of a price – it is almost surely stolen.

According to The Huffington Post, this type of thing is precisely what police in San Francisco are doing to counter theft. Officers in plain clothes are walking around areas known for stolen good purchases and offering people cheap, openly stolen iPhones. Don't say yes though, or you will be arrested – this is all a test and a way for police to close the market for stolen goods. 

As San Francisco Police Capt. Joe Garrity told The Huffington Post, "If they steal the phone but can't sell it, there's no market. We're cutting the head off the snake."

Not all people are too happy with the police's methods in capturing the criminals, with some people claiming that it is encouraging people to commit crime. Police, however, are quick to note that the areas that they focus on – the corner of 7th and Market streets are notoriously linked to the global trade in stolen iPhones and people who buy from there know exactly what they're purchasing.

Smartphone theft is getting so bad that 50% of thefts in the area are of smartphones and it is even being compared to the ongoing war on drugs. The San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascon, still isn't convinced these types of sting operations are effective, telling The Huffington Post that "This is like the drug war – the more arrests you make for drug use, the more drug use seems to go on."

Source: The Huffington Post | Keyboard Image by Shutterstock

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31 Comments

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1. 3 point on license for drunk driving
2. 50 000?
3. ban 5 years. if court (50 000) every-time

if you cant pay it in say 6 months collect fingers. (how must are your finger worth to you)
The only way i would steal then would be if i really was ding of hunger and it would be food i stole.

if law was 1.... why not its not that bad.
if law was 2.... mmm i really like my money (work hard for it) i would think about it
if law was 3.... some as 2 but i would really think about it.

if the govament had proper taxi's available (proper prices and safety), then no would be drunk driving...!!! instead we pay for all the prisons and inmates who get load of ****.... which i just don't get. its better to be in prison(jail)!!!! than on the street.... how does that work?

fighting crime is ridiculous easy, make the punishment actually punishment or it to a cost system. if you cant pay pay in body parts..., i don't believe in jail (what a waste of time, money and space and did i mention money!!! which the working pay for), just make a punishment system that works.

entrapment!!! if someone offer something cheaper to me why not..., here's a coke for free... mmm do i really have to think twice about it.

if i went searching for something a lot cheaper... now that's a different story.... i.e. i would not search for it... but if someone was passing and said hey i'm selling this for way less.. that's entrapment.

I certainly don't support the sale of stolen goods, but this really seems a bit ridiculous to me. It seems more like they can't solve the crime, so they'll arrest anyone they possibly can...

I could certainly see someone showing interest, having no idea that it would be stolen and then being arrested...

um, but how can you be arrested for this (buying an iPhone)? you could easily buy a not stolen iPhone from a person selling one also (who also could then report it stolen for insurance... yeah nice people out there), we going to close up that market also because cops want to instill fear into everyone?

because honestly, what crook comes right out and says "hey want to buy this? it's stolen!"

Have you ever been to the area of San Francisco they are talking about? I haven't been down there in 10 years, but we used to go to that area on every trip as it was a good place to buy lots of stuff that fell of the back of a truck, or out of someones bag and we just couldn't find the original owner.

I know several friends of mine that had their phones stolen within 3 days or so the phones were in the middle east most likely to be sold in russia or asia.

ATTENTION !!!

We are not sell iPhones on the corner of 7th and Market anymore. Please visit us on our new corner, 10th and Market.

... or just hit me up on craigslist

I often wonder.. what is the point of selling stolen iPhones if owner can just as easily report it missing and block the IMEI from ever being used again... No one wants to buy a brick right?

ThunderRiver said,
I often wonder.. what is the point of selling stolen iPhones if owner can just as easily report it missing and block the IMEI from ever being used again... No one wants to buy a brick right?

I think you're giving too much credit to iPhone users. If it doesn't start with a lower case "i" you can count that the majority don't know or care about it; namely, what an IMEI even is.

WooHoo! I found today's blanket insult for iPhone users. It's over here, guys. Line up to issue some polite laughter so that we don't dissuade the comedian from performing again in the future.

mantequillas said,

I think you're giving too much credit to iPhone users. If it doesn't start with a lower case "i" you can count that the majority don't know or care about it; namely, what an IMEI even is.


They don't need to. They just report their phone stolen to their carrier and then the carrier blocks the IMEI... oh, wait.. I'm thinking of countries like UK where they do that, sorry.

TheDogsBed said,
WooHoo! I found today's blanket insult for iPhone users. It's over here, guys. Line up to issue some polite laughter so that we don't dissuade the comedian from performing again in the future.

By behaving like a sore kid instead of ignoring it, you're only feeding him further... well done.

mrbester said,

They don't need to. They just report their phone stolen to their carrier and then the carrier blocks the IMEI... oh, wait.. I'm thinking of countries like UK where they do that, sorry.

IMEI is stored on a read-only chip in all phones, older phone are writable, if you're a high tech theif you'd create software for a jailbroken device that gives a fake IMEI or you'd remove the chip, read the data, alter it, write it to a new chip and solder it back in and voila, a bricked device now works fina gain.
Also most of them avoid that by exporting them to other countries that don't have IMEI checks or different databases.

By behaving like a sore kid instead of ignoring it, you're only feeding him further... well done.

Thank you, Dr Freud. If you could also teach me how to be calmer and funnier in social situations, I would be really grateful. Or, you could practise as you preach and not encourage me by ignoring me. Doh.

n_K said,

IMEI is stored on a read-only chip in all phones, older phone are writable, if you're a high tech theif you'd create software for a jailbroken device that gives a fake IMEI or you'd remove the chip, read the data, alter it, write it to a new chip and solder it back in and voila, a bricked device now works fina gain.
Also most of them avoid that by exporting them to other countries that don't have IMEI checks or different databases.

I do not know how up-to-date your information is with jailbroken devices, but as far as I know, you are going to save your time and sweat by tricking Apple retail store to replace your stolen phone than trying to trick jailbroken software to return a different valid IMEI. The current software solutions out there do not seem to support iPhone 5, only old iDevices. And to overwrite the read-only chip, you may still need jTag to do that...and jTag costs money.

With Android side, the original known method to overwrite the /dev/pttycmd1 does not work under rooted Jelly Bean anymore.

ThunderRiver said,

I do not know how up-to-date your information is with jailbroken devices, but as far as I know, you are going to save your time and sweat by tricking Apple retail store to replace your stolen phone than trying to trick jailbroken software to return a different valid IMEI. The current software solutions out there do not seem to support iPhone 5, only old iDevices. And to overwrite the read-only chip, you may still need jTag to do that...and jTag costs money.

With Android side, the original known method to overwrite the /dev/pttycmd1 does not work under rooted Jelly Bean anymore.


Erm, what? It's completely unrelated to jtag, it's stored in an OTP PROM.

That is absolutely ridiculous. That kind of behaviour is completely illegal and law enforcers have been imprisoned for using similar techniques to "catch" people, essentially all you are doing is enticing people to do something which they may not even know is illegal. There was one case here in Australia where the cops tried to pin a "suspected" (actually turned out to be entirely innocent) illegal weapons dealer by offering then later harassing and threatening him to purchase 5 automatic rifles.

Absolutely despicable behaviour, its not fighting crime its criminalising innocent people with and end result of the criminals still there. If its not the local community its ebay or a cash converter... are they that naive? One market MAY close another will open up just as quickly.

/end rant

If you think that's bad, then look up the Ruby Ridge case with the ATF/FBI in America. They entrapped him, and then they murdered his 14 year old son, wife and even his dog.

It is not entrapment. Entrapment is where the police force someone to commit a crime, in other words, there is only one option: to commit a crime. The police alerted the people that these are stolen, they made the choice to still purchase them. They had a choice to not commit the crime.

jwoodfin09 said,
It is not entrapment. Entrapment is where the police force someone to commit a crime, in other words, there is only one option: to commit a crime. The police alerted the people that these are stolen, they made the choice to still purchase them. They had a choice to not commit the crime.

No.

Entrapment is where the police "induce" someone to commit a crime, when he would not have otherwise committed it.

It is not necessary to be forced. He can choose to commit the crime, and it can still be entrapment, so long as the police have acted sufficiently egregiously.