Phone tracking app leads Guardian Angels, police to iPhone robbery suspects

October 16, 2012 (CHICAGO)

A 22-year-old woman, whose identity ABC7 is protecting, was surrounded by seven young men aboard a south bound train around 12:30 Tuesday morning.

"Just all kind of grabbing me, trying to push me away, so I couldn't try and fight back or get my phone or anything," the victim told ABC7. "I ride the Red Line all the time at all hours, and I just didn't think it would be that big of a deal. You know, no one's going to mess with me."

After the suspects fled, the victim flagged down the Guardian Angels at the next stop who then used the "Find my iPhone" app on their iPhone to locate the stolen device. It showed the suspects getting on a nearby Brown Line train and when they exited at the LaSalle and Van Buren stop police were waiting.

"When the officers went up there was two individuals there that had the physical description of the offenders and were taken into custody. And the phone of course was in one of the offenders' pocket," said Commander John Graeber, Chicago Police Department.

"I'm more in shock. I'm not physically hurt. I'm very grateful that nothing worse happened," the victim said.

On Tuesday morning, the Guardian Angels warned commuters at the Chicago Red Line stop where the victim was attacked and robbed.

Police say the tracking function, which can be activated for free on any iPhone, is leading to more arrests of iPhone thieves.

"Obviously this group this morning didn't know, weren't aware of the technology that we used to track them and find them," said Graeber.

The popularity of "Find Your iPhone" has spawned next generation tracking apps.

"Things like taking snapshots of the individual who may have taken your device," said Brad Spirrison, Appolicious.

Soon, stolen iPhones will be rendered inoperable.

Chicago police are among several departments nationwide working with the government and cell phone providers to disable a stolen device's software.

"This is such a desirable, sought-after product right now, this will make it virtually worthless," said Graeber.

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