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Thief steals iPhone from quadriplegic

A man who relies on an iPhone to communicate has it stolen from the tray of his wheelchair in the lobby of a Staten Island apartment building.

Washington's pointer in action.
NBC New York Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Some thieves like to believe they have scruples. They even talk of honor among themselves.

Some, though, see an iPhone and just can't help themselves. Earlier this year, footage emerged of a man stealing an iPhone from a baby in a store. Yet even that pales with a theft that occurred in a Staten Island apartment building lobby.

William Washington, 38, is a quadriplegic. He has cerebral palsy. The only way he communicates is through an iPhone that he keeps on the tray of his wheelchair. He uses a special pointer attached to a headband in order to tap out messages that are then converted into voice.

Yet, as NBC New York reports, this seems to have elicited no sympathy from someone who encountered him in the apartment building. While an utterly helpless Washington watched, the thief swiped the iPhone from his wheelchair tray and ran off.

Typing into a computer, Washington told NBC New York: "You shouldn't steal from a disabled person who relies on a special device to reach out to the world."

I'm not sure you should steal from anyone, really. But the idea that no sense of guilt might have crossed the thief's mind is quite stirring.

Thefts of iPhones and iPads are up 40 percent in New York.

London has seen a similar trend. The wife of Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason declared yesterday that she is too scared to use her iPhone in public after hers was ripped from her by a man on a bike.

Yet to imagine that someone would have no conscience stealing one from a quadriplegic truly makes one wonder that the iPhone has become a peculiarly sad object of desire. The only way that Washington was able to inform police of the theft was by e-mail.

Police examined the surveillance video in the apartment building and this week arrested an 18-year-old who lives in the same apartment building. The Staten Island Advance identified him as Nakiem Sanders.

Washington didn't get his iPhone back. The alleged thief no longer had it. However, friends have bought him a new one.

You might imagine that the thief was attracted by a new iPhone 5. However, Washington's was an iPhone 3G.

One can only hope that he doesn't have to live through anything like this again. And yet how will he ever be able to secure his iPhone to his wheelchair tray?

Perhaps he should try and employ the same technology as the shock-giving handcuffs that have recently been patented.