**I tweeted about this when it happened but the story really did require more than 142 characters! Here is the whole whale of a tail… ;-0

Oct 5, 2011

My phone “went missing” yesterday and was retrieved by me & cops using “find my phone!” i got it within 9 hrs! Battery was only 17% left! If I was one hour later, I would have been out of luck!

In short I didnt know it was missing till I hunted around for it and after no luck at home, I went to the web to look at the “find my phone” function. I was a bit horrified to see the phone (dubbed wrj shoephone) was moving on Hastings street westbound! Oh no, that is not good. I cancelled an appointment threw my computer in the car and headed out to try and find it.

Thanks to Rob Spooner (who lives near where the perpetrator(s) had my phone) – He allowed me to use his mobile phone so I could keep following the signal and get very near where it was reporting as its location. My heart was racing as I poked around the area discreetly while my friend Colin (at UBC) was on the phone with me following my phone signal at his computer at work. I was within fifty feet of where four transient fellows were lounging in a park with shopping carts and sitting on empty suitcases. Rough looking guys to be honest. What worked really well was me watching and discreetly circling and waiting for a guy to move… when one did I would ask Colin if the signal moved. If not, then I could know it was NOT that guy. At one point I jumped on a bus thinking i had the right guy, but jumped off 2 blocks later when the signal didn’t move (mom helped me with that surveillance). I told the bus driver what was going on and he was pretty intrigued. I ran back to the main hot spot location and kept following the original signal. I managed to narrow it down to one guy – I think.

I had spent a half and hour moving about narrowing down the suspect, but again it does not matter what his description is since my phone is GPS locatable as my phone and whomever has it is not as relevant.

I was considering confronting them myself and just asking for my phone back, but opted to call the police.

911 was frustrating since i had to spend so much time providing a detailed description of a perp, when it the item in question was very trackable itself… no matter whom it passes to, it is still my phone and I can prove it. Whoever has it becomes less the concern if it gets passed around.

Shortly before the female uniformed officer came, the guy that I assumed had my phone went into a building nearby! Oh no, that will make it much harder. I don’t know the building, layout or anything. It could be packed with people in various rooms over various floors! The other problem is as soon as a cop and I go in, word will get around and the phone could get passed around and who knows what could happen. I figured we didn’t have much time once we went in.

I got the cop up to speed on how the phone GPS works – that took time to explain the GPS tracking and how we could use it. Luckily I had my computer and set it up on free wifi in a cafe to show the cop the signals. She was sceptical I guess and needed more proof. Glad I could comply.

The idea of a “perpetrator” was less relevant in locating my phone as it moved and the GPS signal mixed with an alert we could send it would be the best way to locate it.

I had told the cop I was most definitely not looking to cause a scene and would not want retribution – I just wanted my phone – that mellowed the situation and allowed her to not feel worried about potential escalation.
The cop was agreeable in letting me plan out our entry into the space and splitting up and trying to cover the area before asking Colin to “send an alert” to the phone which would have emitted a loud sound helping us locate it – I hoped… however if it was one floor above, we might not hear it, and I don’t think it can be “pinged” twice. Phoning it would not be wise since ringers can be suppressed. This “pinging” can not be suppressed, but we would have to listen carefully to hear it! One chance only.

I am grateful that the cop lady allowed me to plan this out, or it may not have worked. She told me the rules for a search had to be based on a description (she cannot search everyone) so this needed a bit coordination to maximize odds. So the plan was:
– We go in, me first since I can look for him and have a few extra seconds before people spot a cop.
– she goes in and goes to opposite area from where I am or move to. To spread our ears around the space.
– I try to locate him and signal cop lady when phone will be “pinged” by Colin. We both listen to try and locate it.
– I am on the phone the whole time with Colin who is watching to see if it moves. If perpetrator bolts that is not all bad since we then leave and start following signal. Outdoors might be easier to see a person moving to correspond with phone movements.

We went in and of course things are not how you expect. It was a soup kitchen thoughtfully helping out the downtrodden and people having tougher times. It was crowded and worst of all I didn’t see the guy at all! I went to a desk and was asking about what it on upper floors (after quickly explaining what we were doing) and would have to make a quick decision as to best place to be before Colin sends the alert. Again, one chance only. If we don’t hear it, it is over.

Luckily (and easily) a first nations lady came up and gave the cop the phone with hands trembling before we had to ping it! “Are you looking for this?” Yahoo! Success! I was thrilled and thanked her (yes it was a lady now and not the man I suspected… but maybe he passed it along?? who knows.) I am sure turning it in was best for them too since the pinging would have been very incriminating. Returning this with “I found this – is this yours?” is a way better idea than being caught with it.

I was thankful to the lady and she said she was just trying to do the right thing. I expressed gratitude and didn’t mention phoning my number on the back would have been really “the right thing” and that we had to show up here with police to get the right thing to happen isn’t exactly the same, but still that was much better than doing the wrong thing of selling the phone or disabling it. I was very pleased.

I went back two days later and left six of my art posters for the Kettle Society… 4 for the them to auction off to raise money for the society and two for Joanne that found my phone. 🙂

All and all I was lucky. Very lucky! Tip for you is if you have an IPHONE get the FIND MY PHONE app and set it up and know how it works. YOu will not have much time if this happens to you!

Thanks to the VPD
Thanks to Rob Spooner for the Phone use
Thanks to Colin Lochhead for the hi tech following and for the screen grabs you see here.
Thanks to Janet Jans for trying to help on her computer too.

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