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New tech helps track would-be smart phone thieves’

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Yet another theft case in San Francisco has muggers thinking twice about robbing the coveted iPhones.

An alleged thief was set to be arraigned Tuesday on felony charges for swiping the Apple iPhone from a woman’s hand as she walked the city streets — and getting caught by police 9 minutes later, city prosecutors said.

Authorities say the accused, Horacio Toure, likely figured it was a clean steal as he sped off on his bicycle — but he underestimated the technology. That particular iPhone was being used to test a new, real-time GPS tracking application. The woman holding it was an intern for the software’s maker, Mountain View-based Covia Labs.

Covia CEO David Kahn said he sent the intern into the street to try out the software. SFPD were able to track his every move, and the intern identified him as the thief, authorities said.

Toure is facing two felony charges. When arrested, he was allegedly found with two iPhones, authorities said. Bail was set at $30,000, prosecutors said.

This wasn’t the first time technology tracked down iPhone thieves in tech-savvy San Francisco. In April, two men were swiftly detained after a 41-year-old man’s iPhone and laptop were stolen near the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Oak Street. The victim had a MobileMe application that displays the iPhone's approximate location on a map from any computer.

It is no mystery that flaunting technology on San Francisco streets has made pedestrians worthy prey for thefts. SFPD Assistant Chief Jeff Godown has said that a recent uptick in street robberies is largely due to folks carrying tech valuables such as cell phones and iPods.

The iPhone has been a particularly hot item for thugs. A rash of thefts in the Hayes Valley neighborhood earlier this year  can attest to that.

However, thefts this summer have been occurring citywide — and iPhones aren’t the only popular item, police said.

A 24-year-old man was recently stabbed in the back on Chestnut Street in the Marina district while talking on a BlackBerry — one of the more gruesome mugging results from these thefts, police said. He survived.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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