02/22/2013 09:45 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2013

Apple Is Working With NYPD To Track Down Stolen iPhones and iPads

New York police officers have started working with Apple to combat a crime that is sweeping the country: theft of iPhones and iPads.

Nationwide, many police departments have reported a spike in stolen Apple devices. The New York Police Department said a rise in stolen Apple products -– nearly 4,000 more than the previous year -- caused a slight increase in the city’s annual crime index. Police in Washington, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Chicago have also reported a recent surge in smartphone thefts.

The crime has become so prevalent that police have dubbed it “Apple picking,” and started using undercover officers on subways to catch iPhone thieves and conducting undercover stings to arrest employees at supermarkets, barbershops, pawnshops and bodegas who allegedly buy stolen iPhones and iPads.

Now, New York police officers have begun sharing the unique identifying numbers of stolen phones – known as the IMEI numbers – with Apple, which can locate iPhones and iPads anywhere in the world, regardless of which wireless provider the owners were using, according to The New York Post.

Previously, Apple's role in helping victims recover stolen devices was the "Find My iPhone" feature, which helped owners locate their phone on a map, display a message on its screen, remotely set a passcode lock and delete data from the phone.

Police spokesman Paul Browne told the Post that 74 percent of all stolen Apple devices are found within the city limits and that one iPad stolen in New York was tracked to the Dominican Republic with Apple’s help.

Later this year, the nation's four major wireless providers -- AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint -- plan to share a database of stolen phones in hopes of drying up the black market for the devices. Thieves have avoided detection from wireless carriers by swapping out SIM cards of stolen phones. But the new stolen phone database will track the serial number of each stolen device, rendering them inoperable in the United States.



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