With smartphone theft rampant, apps like Find My iPhone offer a new option for those desperate to recover their devices, allowing victims to act when the police will not, says the New York Times. The emergence of this kind of “do-it-yourself justice” — a result of the proliferation of GPS tracking apps — worries police that people are putting themselves in danger, taking disproportionate risks for the sake of an easily replaced item.
“This is a new phenomenon — it's not simply running after the person to grab the phone,” said George Gascón, the San Francisco district attorney and a former police chief. “It opens up the opportunity for people to take the law into their own hands, and they can get themselves into really deep water if they go to a location where they shouldn't go.” More than three million smartphones were stolen last year, says a Consumer Reports survey. Since 2011, cellphone thefts have risen 26 percent in Los Angeles; robberies involving phones rose 23 percent in San Francisco last year. In New York City, 18 percent of grand larcenies last year involved Apple products.