AirTag crucial to recovery of $5 million of stolen tools in Metro DC

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in iPhone

After getting fed up with overnight thefts of tools, a Northern Virginia carpenter planted AirTags on his tools, leading police to series of storage facilities full of stolen goods.

A cluttered warehouse with numerous power tools, generators, and equipment bags scattered across the floor and stacked on shelves.
Stolen goods recovered from a tool theft ring



Twice, an unnamed carpenter woke in the early morning to find his van broken into, and thousands of dollars of tools stolen out of the vehicle. He decided that if there was going to be a third time, he was going to hunt down the thieves.

He bought a series of AirTags and planted them in some of the larger tools that had yet to be stolen.

On January 22, the thieves returned. All in all, between the three break-ins, 50 tools had been stolen from the man -- including some of the tools seeded with AirTags.

Upon discovering the theft, the man drove around the DC metro area suburbs, following the thieves with his iPhone. Ultimately, he tracked the stolen tools to a storage facility in nearby Howard County.

#HoCoPolice have recovered approximately 15,000 stolen construction tools totaling $3-$5 million in what is believed to be one of the largest and most expansive theft cases in the region in recent years. More info and to recover stolen tools: https://t.co/ecfD8G2eFP pic.twitter.com/eHv5n8qqzQ

-- Howard County Police Department (@HCPDNews)



The man did not take matters into his own hands, as others have. Instead, he called the police who took action, got a search warrant, and raided the storage locker.

The police didn't just find the man's tools. Instead, they found signs of a much larger operation.

Ultimately information from that one locker,led police to 12 storage locations. Across the storage areas, over 15,000 tools worth up to $5 million were found. All of the tools are believed to have been stolen from locations in Northern Virginia and some locations in Pennsylvania.

"The scope of the investigation is enormous and ongoing," Howard County Police Chief Gregory Der told The Washington Post in an accounting of the discovery published on May 31. "We believe the tools were stolen from retail stores, businesses, vehicles, residential properties and construction sites."

To date, none of the thieves have been arrested, Chief Der admitted. The police department says that they are looking into several suspects, and expect charges to be filed soon.

The carpenter who planted the AirTags has since gotten back about a half-dozen of his stolen tools. Police have identified about 80 victims of the theft spree, and launched a website in mid-May where potential victims can enter data to hopefully get their tools back.

Apple's AirTag has been central to many stories of theft and recovery. Stolen cars are the most common recoveries, followed by luggage, it seems. However, they have also been used to stalk victims.

Apple has since updated the firmware for the AirTags to assist in identifying when an AirTag has been unwillingly planted on someone or their possessions. And, the AirTag spotter software is available not just on iPhone, but on Android as well.



Read on AppleInsider

Bart Y

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,297member
    Are AirTags still really that effective? I tested bringing someone else’s AirTag and in a matter of minutes I received a warning that an AirTag was traveling with me. And I could disable the tag on my own iPhone.
    Which is great for stalkers and protect my privacy, but obviously kills the function of tracking your stolen items. 
    retrogustoJamal_Jamal
  • Reply 2 of 13
    It also helps if the police care.  My 85 year old dad got mugged at Luton airport in the UK and his iPad pro was stolen.  Using “find my” we knew EXACTLY which house and address the device was in but the police said that “find my” was “not reliable” and refused to go get it back.

    I had to buy him a new one :(.  
    watto_cobraVictorMortimer
  • Reply 3 of 13
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,686member
    Police don’t like or want others doing their job.   They claim it’s too dangerous to you, yet will not help you.   

    They don’t care about your safety, only theirs.   They’ll shoot you for no reason except “they were scared for their life”.  

    So do it.  Track them.  Take your stuff back.  The police will do nothing.  FTP.  
    VictorMortimer
  • Reply 4 of 13
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,625member
    eriamjh said:
    Police don’t like or want others doing their job.   They claim it’s too dangerous to you, yet will not help you.   

    They don’t care about your safety, only theirs.   They’ll shoot you for no reason except “they were scared for their life”.  

    So do it.  Track them.  Take your stuff back.  The police will do nothing.  FTP.  
    While that undoubtedly does happen, it's a little weird to claim that they "will not help you" under an article that is literally about the police having helped somebody track down his stolen goods. 
    dewmeretrogustoronnBart Ywatto_cobramuthuk_vanalingamroundaboutnow
  • Reply 5 of 13
    omasouomasou Posts: 606member
    I'm torn between adding features to detect stalking and being able to track stolen items.

    Perhaps Apple can add a feature (if they haven't already) so that when an AirTag is disabled by someone other than the owner, it  records the user's information and last location of the AirTag. That should cause thieves to bypass AirTagged items.
    appleinsideruserwatto_cobrabageljoey
  • Reply 6 of 13
    maltzmaltz Posts: 474member
    Are AirTags still really that effective? I tested bringing someone else’s AirTag and in a matter of minutes I received a warning that an AirTag was traveling with me. And I could disable the tag on my own iPhone.
    Which is great for stalkers and protect my privacy, but obviously kills the function of tracking your stolen items. 

    You won't get an alert for at least a couple of hours after the AirTag has last communicated with its owner's device.  But even if you picked up an AirTag that had already been out of contact for a while, it has to have been traveling with you, meaning that your phone has to have seen the same, unknown AirTag near you, over time at multiple locations without that AirTag having been in Bluetooth range of its owner.  Even that would take a little while.  I could believe 15-30 minutes if you just pick it up and start traveling.  BTW, you cannot disable the AirTag using your phone, you can just mute the warning for 24 hours or so.  The only way to disable the AirTag and prevent its owner from seeing its location is to find it and remove its battery.

    That said, you are somewhat right in that AirTag is intended solely for finding lost items and explicitly NOT for anti-theft purposes, because that use case 100% overlaps functionally with stalking purposes.  However, it can still sometimes be useful for anti-theft.  In this case, the AirTag may have still been in range of the owner's device when the tools were stolen out of his driveway, keeping the anti-stalking alert silent until the thieves had deposited the tools at the storage location.
    Bart YStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 13
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,101member
    So pairing Apple parts can work to the good? :smile: 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 13
    jdiamondjdiamond Posts: 129member
    I feel like maybe there could be some compromise here, because Aritags are SO useful to be able to track stolen/lost items.  Maybe they could extend the stalker warning period to say 4-8 hours?  Sure, then a stalker could follow you for a single trip, but then that's it until he plants a new airtag on you.  And it's unlikely, because after that 8 hours, the stalker would be caught having done it.  But meanwhile, 8 hours could be a lot more helpful in tracking thieves.

    Sure, you can conjure up specific scenarios where this could still be bad, but let's not pretend any of this is fool proof.  You could always stalk someone by just taping an airtags charging case to a car and using Find My.  Yet there is so much positive upside with theft protection.

    And maybe this is the real solution?  It's a little more expensive, but now we have to stick Airpods on items we wish to track?
    edited June 1 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Apple with take away the best functionality of the AirTag to block stalkers. Again, the general, law-abiding public suffers because companies feel the need to alter a good product because of what criminals might do.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 13
    mikethemartianmikethemartian Posts: 1,428member
    It also helps if the police care.  My 85 year old dad got mugged at Luton airport in the UK and his iPad pro was stolen.  Using “find my” we knew EXACTLY which house and address the device was in but the police said that “find my” was “not reliable” and refused to go get it back.

    I had to buy him a new one :(.  
    I have heard the same story many times from people who have had property, money and even pets stolen and can identify the person who likely did it and police won’t do anything to investigate or even allow the person to have a written report to document the complaint.
    edited June 1 watto_cobraVictorMortimer
  • Reply 11 of 13
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,638member
    jdiamond said:
    I feel like maybe there could be some compromise here, because Aritags are SO useful to be able to track stolen/lost items.  
    Apple's position is that AirTags are for LOST items, not STOLEN items. As some people indicated here, a smart thief can detect if they are holding an AirTag and then (if they have the time and skill) find and remove the AirTag. All AirTags are designed to be FOUND, even by thieves.
    ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 13
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,625member
    Apple with take away the best functionality of the AirTag to block stalkers. Again, the general, law-abiding public suffers because companies feel the need to alter a good product because of what criminals might do.
    Not "might do" — are doing and have actively done in the past. AirTags have been successfully used for stalking, tracking luxury cars for later theft, and other serious crimes. 
    ronn
  • Reply 13 of 13
    XedXed Posts: 2,704member
    Apple with take away the best functionality of the AirTag to block stalkers. Again, the general, law-abiding public suffers because companies feel the need to alter a good product because of what criminals might do.
    So your argument is that Apple has taken away the ability to stop "what criminals might do" by stealing your belongings to make it harder for "what criminals might do" by stalking someone, and your takeaway is "fuck the safety and security of human life, I have a sweet whip I care about more"? Does that about sum up your thoughts?
    edited June 2 beowulfschmidtronn
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