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California man uses iPhone GPS to track down thieves

A GPS tracking system saves the day, again. One man uses it to find his stolen bag full of valuables, including his laptop, iPad, and iPhone.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smartphone thieves beware. If you steal an iPhone, the owner can track you. That's what a California man did when robbed of his laptop, iPhone and iPad, according to a recent court case.

Three men accosted Enner Mendoza, a resident of Anaheim, Calif., last year. They pressed a hard object to the back of his neck and demanded his belongings. After taking his messenger bag, which contained his tech valuables as well as his watch and wallet, the thieves got in their gold sedan and drove away, laughing.

But, it seems Mendoza got the last laugh.

He quickly returned home, called the police, and started tracking his iPhone through a GPS tracking program on his computer. He gave the location to the authorities who found the car at a liquor store in a neighboring city. The cops found the stolen goods, along with a fake handgun and the suspects, in the car.

This isn't the first time GPS has saved the day, but smartphone thefts are becoming more common. The devices are valuable, and easy to grab and run off with. It happens so often in New York that the police department there as a dedicated unit just for Apple devices.

Officials on both coasts see it as a public safety issue and recently called on the smartphone industry to add a "kill switch" option to phones. This would make phones useless if lost or stolen, reducing their value to thieves.