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updated 1/30/2012 3:20:44 PM ET 2012-01-30T20:20:44

A New York City cop put his tech skills to quick use last week, tracking down a stolen iPhone and catching its thief red-handed.

At about 7 p.m. last Thursday (Jan. 26), a man pulled a gun on a woman standing outside Tuci Italia, a handbag store on Avenue of the Americas near West 57th Street, the New York Times reported. The woman was a Tuci Italia cashier on a break standing near the entrance to the store, and the mugger made off with her iPhone.

Normally, the miscreant would have melted into the evening rush-hour crowd, but Officer Robert Garland's on-his-feet decision to use his own iPhone led to the crook's swift apprehension.

Garland entered the woman's Apple ID into the "Find My iPhone" app, which used GPS to pinpoint location of the phone. It was near Eighth Avenue and 51st Street, traveling south.

[Gangs Are Eavesdropping on Police Radios Via Smartphone Apps]

When Garland and his partner, Sgt. Richard Coan, got to the location, Garland hit the "Play Sound" button on the app and instantly heard a beeping sound emitting from a man stepping out of a Food Emporium supermarket near Eighth Avenue and 49th Street. The man was identified as George Bradshaw, a 40-year-old resident of Brooklyn.

"As the officers closed in, joined by another pair, the pinging stopped," C.J. Hughes from the Times wrote. "Had Mr. Bradshaw been an Apple aficionado, he might have known how to disable the iCloud setting, which could have stopped the trace."

The beeping, stolen phone was found in Bradshaw's right sock and returned to its rightful owner. Bradshaw, already facing charges from a cellphone theft, was charged with robbery and possession of stolen property.

The high-tech arrest reflects a growing trend among New York City petty criminals — the desire to steal gadgets, namely iPhones, laptops and iPads, instead of cash.

According to an internal NYPD report obtained in November by the New York Daily News, half of the nearly 16,000 robberies in NYC in the first 10 months of 2011 involved gadget theft. The prized device, the study said, was the iPhone, which accounted for 70 percent of all cellphones stolen on subways and buses.

The iPhone's so hot, in fact, that another Brooklyn-based iPhone mugger busted this month would allegedly let prospective victims go if they carried less desirable smartphones.

In an attempt to stem the illegal trafficking and to cut off the resale points of stolen iPhones and other high-demand gadgets, New York City police launched a massive sting in late December, arresting 141 merchants at "bodegas, newsstands and barbershops" for selling stolen iPhone and iPads, according to the New York Post.

The cops sprang into action after they posed as thieves, sold the hot items to the stores, and then watched shop owners mark up the stolen phones and iPads for resale on eBay.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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