John Hammons woke up on New Year’s Day, went to the garage of his Tustin home – and realized his two guitars were gone.
Culprits had slipped into his unlocked car in a back alley and grabbed the garage-door opener. So he called police and reported the missing guitars, torch lighter and aging iPhone with the cracked screen.
A Tustin police officer showed up and asked Hammons if he’d ever tracked his phone before. He hadn’t, but he got on his computer and tried. He didn’t get a hit, at first. The phone had been turned off. He tried again and again, and later that day he learned that his iPhone was at The Outlets at Orange.
“They’re trying to sell my guitars at Guitar Center,” the 52-year-old recalled thinking.
Smartphones – specifically their whereabouts – have become a tool to help officers snag the bad guys, albeit a rare strategy, in part because the phones need to be on, and some thieves are aware of their tracking abilities. Sometimes, getting back the phone itself is the goal, with some models cracking $650 each.
Sometimes, the phone is just the key to solving the crime.
That New Year’s Day, Hammons called police and raced over to Guitar Center.
“My heart was racing,” he said. “I’m looking around, thinking it could be anyone.”
Employees told him someone had dropped by to ask if the store purchased guitars. He told them about his electric one and a 12-string guitar, valued at perhaps $1,200 together, and asked that they be on the lookout. That evening, police summoned him to the store after three men and a woman showed up.
He confirmed the guitars they had were his, and the quartet was arrested.
Both Apple and Android include the ability to track your missing devices. The Find My iPhone app lets you log into your Apple account and track, using GPS, where the phone is. You can find it with someone else’s device, too, if you had previously allowed others to track the phone. Android has a similar function.