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Entries in Theft (13)

Wednesday
Jun012011

Police and Anti-Theft Software Combine to Nab MacBook Thief

Apple, Inc.(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Two months after his laptop was stolen from his apartment, Joshua Kaufman on Wednesday reclaimed it at the Oakland, Calif., Police Department, thanks to the combined forces of a police investigation and an unusual sleuth -- a clever computer application.

"I'm here to pick up my MacBook!" Kaufman proclaimed to his nearly 6,000 Twitter followers Wednesday afternoon after arriving at the police station.

After losing the Apple Macbook in March to an apartment bandit, Kaufman, an interaction designer from San Francisco, activated an application he'd previously installed on the computer, called "Hidden," to locate it -- along with the alleged thief.

The app tracks the computer's location to within a few meters and uses a built-in camera to take photos. In addition to a street address, Kaufman was able to take screenshots of the computer in use and snap photos of the alleged thief driving, sitting shirtless in his bed, and even napping on a couch.

He alerted police, who told Kaufman they were unable to help due to "a lack of resources," according to Kaufman's blog post.

The Oakland Police Department conceded that a heavy case load can hinder some investigations. "We definitely have to prioritize our cases," said Holly Joshi, public information officer for the Oakland Police Department. "We get about 2,400 theft cases per month and we only have three theft investigators. There's a very high demand as far as theft investigations are concerned,"

Without a suspect in custody or any leads to follow up on, the police didn't have much to further investigate.

Undeterred, Kaufman took to Tumblr for some Internet justice, launching a blog called "This Guy Has My MacBook," loaded with the photos of the alleged perpetrator.

The site developed into a minor viral sensation, but some readers were skeptical.

"Unfortunately some people thought it was a viral marketing stunt, which it wasn't," Toby de Havilland, CEO of Flipcode LTD, the distributor of the Hidden app, told ABC News.

But any doubts were erased late Tuesday when the Oakland police were alerted by a call to the police media relations department.

"A media outlet called to ask if it was a hoax or if it was true. It was the first I had ever heard about it, so I located the burglary report he made back in March. As I did more research, I realized this wasn't a hoax -- it was a guy trying to locate his laptop," Joshi said.

Shortly after, the department notified Kaufman that there was movement with his case. Less than an hour later, he received a call from the Oakland Police informing him that a suspect had been arrested.

The suspect, 27-year-old Muthanna Alde-Bashi, was interviewed by investigators and has made some admission statements, according to police.

Now that Kaufman has been reunited with his laptop, there is growing hope for others. De Havilland said "Hidden" has seen a bump in website traffic and new users since Kaufman launched his Tumblr.

The application was initially created by a group of friends after one of their laptops was stolen. After using the program internally, the company released it to the public a few years later. It's since picked up hundreds of thousands of users.

Perhaps "Hidden" has earned a user for life in Kaufman. "Joshua has thanked us! We're really thrilled he got his MacBook back!" de Havilland said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr202011

Thieves Canvassing Neighborhoods, Businesses to Steal Gas

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HICKORY, N.C.) -- Bobby Fox has allegedly found a way around high gas prices: steal it.

The Hickory County thief was caught with a hose in his mouth and carrying a bucket siphoning gas from a pickup truck, police in North Carolina told ABCNews.com

"We've had some trucks that had their gas stolen, but we have not connected him to that yet," said Libby Grigg, an administrative assistant at the Hickory Police Department.  "That's under investigation."

The area has seen its share of gas theft in recent weeks, including gas siphoning at a U-Haul facility in the neighborhood.  The case is unsolved.

Fox was caught red-handed in a separate incident siphoning gas out of one vehicle and when approached by an officer he fled on foot, police said.  His motive?  "I guess he needed the gas," said Grigg.

The Hickory County thefts are a part of the current trend of gas siphoning crooks across the United States who are skipping trips to the pump, preferring instead to take gas from the cars of neighbors or businesses as gas prices top $4 a gallon in some places.

"It's not mystery.  It's like copper theft and other precious metals," says Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.  "It's becoming more appealing for criminals to siphon gasoline and diesel."

In the last few weeks gas thieves have grown brazen, with thieves bypassing gas tank locks by drilling holes in the tanks or the more dangerous method of cutting gas lines.  At times, they are walking off, or driving off, with hundreds of gallons of gas.

One daring thief targeted SUVs parked in the driveways of residential homes in St. Charles, Illinois.

"We have occasionally have gas thefts reported but nothing like the last three weeks," said Paul McCurtain, spokesman for the St. Charles Police Department.  "We're guessing it's related to the increase in the price of gas and since most are occurring in residential areas all of our officers are very much aware and are spending more time in the area."´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr152011

Theft of Florida Vegetables by Hijackers Proves Produce Prices High

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thieves have stolen $250,000 worth of Florida tomatoes -- the most dramatic proof so far that inflation is sending commodity prices skyward. Call it "The Great Produce Robbery."

Sophisticated thieves set up what the New York Times says was a bogus trucking company and used it, in late March, to fool farmers into parting with six tractor-trailer loads of tomatoes. One of the victims, Bob Spencer, owner of West Coast Tomato in Palmetto, Florida, was plucked of 40,000 pounds of tomatoes worth about $42,000. He supplies McDonald's and Burger King, among other customers.

Spencer says he and fellow growers had never before seen anything like this heist. "I hate to compare it to 9/11," he says, but for the tomato industry, it was as novel "as flying planes into a building. It was a very sophisticated operation."

At the time, prices for the kind of tomatoes Spencer grows were up around $25 for a 25-pound box. "With prices that high," he says, there's an opportunity for a thief to unload for $15 a box what he's stolen and still make good money. He says he is now taking new precautions to protect his tomatoes, but won't say what they are.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Service of the Department of Agriculture, tomato prices a year ago were around $1.84 per pound in major supermarkets. Right now, they're more like $2.44. At the end of March, when the tomato-rustling incident occurred, they were even higher. At restaurants and hamburger chains, tomatoes have gone from being 5 percent of a burger's cost to more like 15 percent. In March, Wendy's told patrons that tomatoes would be served only by request. Wendy's spokesman Denny Lynch said it was more concerned about the recent poor quality of tomatoes than the jump in price.

Why the poor quality? Why the price? Freezing temperatures hit the tomato growing regions of Florida, Texas and Mexico almost simultaneously, decimating crops. California largely was spared, but its tomatoes are used more for paste and other processed products than for slapping down between two buns.

In the past two weeks, some tomato prices have come down, says grower Spencer: Prices for his Roma tomatoes remain high at $32 a box, but prices for round tomatoes have dropped from the mid $20s back down into the teens.

Says Wendy's Lynch: "Tomatoes are back in supply, because Mother Nature since March 24 has come back and warmed up the Earth again." Consumers, he says, can stop worrying now about $5 tomatoes and start worrying about something else: ground beef.

The next commodity to spike in price, he says, will be ground beef and beef in every other form.

"Ground beef has been going up, and it still is. That's going to be a far bigger issue." The increase isn't being driven by one thing but by many simultaneously: Floods in Australia have hurt beef exports to the U.S.. Feed corn costs are up. So is the cost of gasoline for transporting cattle. "Each one is having its impact," he says. "It hasn't shown up in burger prices yet." But he's expecting it will.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

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