After stealing an iPhone, two suspects were arrested by the Namur police thanks to the geolocation functionality built into the device. The iPhone could not be found.
The facts unfold on the night of Sunday, May 22, 2011 in downtown Namur. Quentin (assumed name) is a young man, aged approximately 25. While he is near Saint-Loup Church, the latter receives a call from his father announcing a death in the family. Shocked by the bad news, he sits on a bench to recover a bit. Two young people who had witnessed the scene from a little further approach him. One of them starts talking to Quentin, explaining that he has also experienced this kind of thing. The youngster asked a few moments later to be able to use the iPhone to send an SMS to an acquaintance, while explaining that he had forgotten his cell phone at home. Quentin initially refuses and finally accepts only listening to his good heart.
The complications then followed: the individual with whom he spoke, no longer wants to give him the iPhone and simply tells him that he will not return it! two against one, Quentin dares not protest. The thieves, seeming to be familiar with the notion of "pellet", ask him if he intends to file a complaint. Not wanting to provoke the two young people and always reeling from the bad announcement received shortly before, he replied in the negative.
They leave, leaving Quentin seized. The latter finally went to the Police Station to file a complaint and gave a full description of the two authors. Fortunately remembering that he activated the location-based service (MobileMe) on his iPhone, he transmits his account information to the police officer who files his complaint. The duty inspector goes straight to the Me.com website and realizes that the iPhone is on a street a few hundred meters from the scene of the incident.
The police decided to send several patrols in the area to find the two individuals, without knowing the exact building where the suspects were kept. At first, the police have to face the facts, they will not have them that way. The teams therefore leave the premises, with the exception of one of them, composed of two inspectors from the Special Intervention Group (GIS) who stand discreetly on standby. One stands in front of the buildings, watching for the authors' possible exit, while the other stands behind them to prevent their leaks.
The wait will not be too long: two people come out from the front of the building which is located just opposite the location geolocated by the Apple site. Armed with the description provided by Quentin, the two suspects were arrested and arrested in the crowd. Back at the police station, a recognition will formally identify the two people as the perpetrators of the extortion.
The iPhone was not found.
Despite a search of the home of one of the authors (the other resident of Brussels), the iPhone has yet to be found. However, the investigation is still ongoing and could lead to a "happy ending" in this case, which was carefully managed by the services of the Namur Local Police. In the meantime, the two thieves are behind bars!
We had the opportunity to meet Quentin, informally without having the opportunity to interview him, but this allowed us to clarify certain elements of this file.
Belgium-iPhone: Quentin, do you explain that you tried to geolocalize your iPhone several times from the Me.com site? What did you get out of it?
Quentin: "In fact, I geolocated my iPhone in the presence of the Police Inspector who took my complaint. Unfortunately, after several tests, it turned out that the iPhone had either been deactivated, or restored and therefore more geolocalizable! This is a problem, because we will no longer know where it is … In the end, I had all my data deleted from my iPhone, from Apple's remote service. The next time I restart my iPhone, it will reset itself. it’s a lesser evil! ”
He explains that after locating his iPhone on the Internet, he tried again several times, but without success and this only a few minutes after the first geolocation. The thieves, before being intercepted, undoubtedly had time to carry out a “restoration” of the apparatus, Quentin unfortunately had not protected it by a password. Luckily, the two young people did not see that in his shoulder bag was his MacBook and his iPad, that the two compres would not have failed to take it too …
We were able to meet the Inspector of the Namur Local Police who took Quentin's complaint.
Here is the interview:
Belgium iPhone: Could you explain to us how you got involved in this rather specific case?
Nicolas (Police Inspector): “While I was on duty at the front desk, a person presented himself and declared that he had been the victim of a robbery with violence. I made his declaration (he explains the facts to us, note). for a moment, during the hearing, the victim remembered that he had activated an internet service allowing him to geolocalize his iPhone, provided that it is always on. I then contacted the dispatching office in order to be able to access the internet and we went up (the dispatching office is on the first floor) together to use the Apple site. We were then able to find his iPhone on the map and locate it fairly precisely in a street in Namur and more precisely in a block of apartments. We immediately contacted the teams in the field, the Emergency Police and the Special Intervention Group, who went to the site with a precise description. The geolocation was not obvious, the accuracy of 15 to 20 meters according to the Apple site. "
Belgium-iPhone: In this specific case, the teams were sent to the field to search for the authors. Did you follow the intervention at the Namur Police Dispatching Center directly?
Nicolas: We did the update as real and gave the information to the teams in the field. Finally, the teams left with the exception of the GIS (Special Intervention Group) team, which was on the edge of a more discreet vehicle and was able to position itself so as not to be noticed. The Inspectors then waited for some time on the spot and were able to notice two individuals leaving the golocalis building thanks to the iPhone. They were intercepted, one brought back to the Police station, a minor, while the other colleagues organized a search consented to the home of the other author, major and resident of Namur. Unfortunately, the search was negative. ”
Belgium-iPhone: For the rest of the investigation, is there any risk of being complicated since the iPhone has been dyed or has undergone a restoration?
Nicolas: You should know that the first author, the major, told us that he had seen the iPhone! … But during the hearing, he did not want to laugh at his words, the Magistrate will judge his words and will meet him in order to divide the true from the false!
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