‘Find My Device’ App Helps Car Owner Recover Stolen Property Within An Hour

EVEN with sophisticated locking systems, a car still has one vulnerable area – the windows and windscreen. Unless you have bulletproof glass, it is not difficult to smash the glass and unlock the door to enter. The alarm may go off but thieves can be quick and remove what they want and be gone before they get caught.

That’s why it’s always advisable to take your valuables with you or make sure that they are well hidden and cannot be seen by someone who looks in. Arvin Tharan, a member of the USJ Community group on Facebook, had the misfortune of having his very valuable items – an Apple watch, a MacBook Pro and an iPad – stolen when thieves broke the glass of his car.

He had earlier parked his car in the SS14 area of Subang Jaya, he said, and had gone to a restaurant for a meal. When he returned to the car, he saw the rear window broken and upon checking, saw that his bag with the Apple devices was gone.

At first, he tried to see if anyone’s CCTV cameras had captured the robbery taking place. But none were pointed in the direction of his car. Then he had an idea: use the ‘Find My Device’ feature on his iPhone. This uses an app and service provided by Apple and can track all iOS devices. “All these devices are able to be tracked as long as they have their battery charged,” Arvin said.

“I open the ‘Find My Device’ app and locked all my devices,” he said. This would ensure that the thieves could not access the MacBook and iPad. Then he started to look for their location; his property was stolen in SS14 and the location shown in the app was in the Sri Petaling area, about 17 kms to the east of Subang Jaya.

He went to the nearest police station to make a report and then informed them that he knew where the thieves might be. “I requested for immediate help as I could still locate them.” The police must have been impressed and accompanied him to Sri Petaling.

Thanks to GPS accuracy being pretty good today (it was less accurate in the 1990s), Arvin was able to identify a kopitiam where the thieves possibly were. However, the police said that it was better for them not to enter and tip off the thieves to their presence (even though they were not in uniform). So Arvin went in himself and slowly looked at the customers inside.

“I acted like I was looking for food to buy. Then I went around the location that the app was showing. Finally, I found a guy with my watch and just to be sure, I went closer to them but acted like I was making an order near them,” he said.

Having confirmed that there were at least two thieves (they were chatting) at the table, Arvin went out and informed the police who went in and arrested the men. Arvin learnt that they had criminal records and one had broken into 16 cars before.

The whole episode took about an hour from the time he had returned to his car and realized his things were stolen to the time the thieves were arrested in Sri Petaling. Not everyone might be as quick-thinking as Arvin to make use of modern technology to help recover his property. Apple must be happy with this real life demonstration of the usefulness of its app.

While the ‘Find My Device’ feature is used only for Apple devices, there are also systems that are installed in cars to track them. A number of models come with them as standard or options, or tracking devices can be installed by the owner. They typically use the GPS/GSM network to show the car’s location which can be monitored by a command centre. If an owner makes a request after the car is stolen, the location can be determined and authorities will be informed to recover the car.