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NYPD stops iPhone theft in No. 7 chase

Inspector Brian Maguire (front) discusses teamwork by police officers Herbin (back l.-r.) Tsang, Hamid, Sgt. Pilla and Capt. Tommy Ng that led to the arrest of an alleged iPhone thief. Photo by Joe Anuta
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The tracking software on a stolen iPhone led officers from the 109th Precinct on a chase through Corona Monday and their target was the No. 7 train.

Just after 12 p.m. Monday, a 30-year-old woman was talking on her white iPhone near the corner of 41st Avenue and Main Street in Flushing when a man came from behind and snatched the device, police said.

A witness, 40-year-old Lan Zhen Zou, began chasing after the 20-year-old suspect, but eventually returned to help the woman call police.

When officers arrived, they used Apple’s Find My iPhone software to try to track the woman’s phone, according to police.

They got nothing.

But all of a sudden, the round dot that signified the stolen phone’s location popped onto the screen of an officer’s iPhone. It was moving quickly down Roosevelt Avenue, according to Capt. Tommy Ng, executive officer at the 109th Precinct, leading him to believe the suspect was riding on the No. 7 train with the stolen phone.

The officers jumped in their cars, taking the woman with them, and began chasing down the train, which had originated in Flushing, emerged from the tunnel and was heading west above ground.

As the police, who included Officers Herbin, Tsang and Hamid and Sgt. Pilla, began to catch up to the subway, Ng called the NYPD’s transit division and instructed them to hold the train at the corner of Junction Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, he said.

The engineer of the train pulled the first car into the station, where officers boarded and began combing the different cars, according to Ng.

Herbin recognized a man who had been previously arrested in Flushing, according to police. He called the stolen number, which allegedly rang in the man’s pocket.

He was promptly arrested.

“The majority of the grand larceny crimes are driven by electronics,” Ng said. “Having the iPhone tracking software installed will assist the Police Department in finding the bad guy more quickly.”

Last summer, the 109th set up a table along Main Street in Flushing to encourage residents to register their devices with the software.

“At night around here, the iPhone is like a beacon for criminals,” Inspector Brian Maguire, commanding officer at the precinct, told TimesLedger Newspapers at the time. “It’s one of the biggest targets.”

Citywide, the NYPD began working with Apple earlier this year to try and track down stolen merchandise, according to a report in the New York Post.

“We’re looking for ways to find individuals who have stolen Apple products and return the products to their original owners,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Post. “It is being done to learn the pattern who is stealing.”

In one case, a stolen iPad was tracked to the Dominican Republic, where an NYPD intelligence cop assigned to Santo Domingo helped get it back, the Post reported.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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