updated 01:20 pm EST, Fri February 22, 2013
Measure uses IMEI tracking to locate purloined devices
According to a report in the New York Post, the New York Police Department has assembled a dedicated team to work with Apple to retrieve the stolen devices and identify the thieves. Police attempt to get the IMEI identification number of the stolen device from the victim of the theft or from online records, and submit it to Cupertino. Apple then relays to the police department the current location of the device. Apple's law enforcement cooperation is well in advance of the announced cross-carrier database, expected in late 2013 or 2014.
"We're looking for ways to find individuals who have stolen Apple products and return the products to their original owners," said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne. "It is being done to learn the pattern who is stealing." The NYPD notes that 74 percent of all purloined Apple devices reappear inside New York, and are often sold on the second-hand market to buyers who have no idea of the history of the device.
Co-founder of cellphone security firm Lookout, Kevin Mahaffey, told the Post that "this technique of identifying stolen phones by their unique identifiers has been around for a number of years and is technically rather simple -- the difficult part has been integrating with law enforcement to track down the stolen devices."