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Even With GPS, Retrieving A Stolen Phone Proves Difficult

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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(File photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

(File photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – GPS monitoring software has been marketed as a great tool to track down a lost or stolen smart phone or tablet. But knowing where your phone is doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it back. Just ask Monica Friel who left her phone in the back of a cab, tracked it to a nearby hotel and called police.

“They were like sorry. That’s too bad,” she said. There was no offer for any additional help.

If your electronic device is stolen, tracking it down is easy but the hard part is what to do next. According to Richard Weinblatt, former police chief and crime expert, it’s all about a lack of resources in many police departments.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

“They need to be able to allocate (resources) to the violent crimes first,” he said. “If you’re being stabbed do you want to be put on hold to say, I’m sorry, we’re dealing with a $200 iPhone?”

When police do have the resources, it can make a big difference. Scotia Evans left her husband’s iPad on a bus. The used the GPS software and tracked it down to a house and called police with the address. Police questioned a man coming out of that house. “When he saw police, he immediately became very cooperative and willfully returned it,” Scotia said.

Even though Monica knew exactly where her phone was, she decided it was too risky to confront someone on her own. “It was just really frustrating to be able to see the phone and know it was there and then not getting it back,” she said.

Police understand the frustration but the say Monica did the right thing. “You can get hurt. You can get killed and it’s not worth your life or injury for a $200 iPhone,” Weinblatt said.

Even if you can’t get your phone back, those GPS tracking devices still have some value. Many programs allow you to lock your phone remotely. That way the thief won’t be able to access any account numbers or other valuable personal information.

Even when the police are willing to help, if the phone is inside a home they would need a search warrant to enter. That search warrant that also takes time and resources.

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