Apple Buyers Make IPhone 5 Trackable With Police Help

The New York City Police Department stationed officers at Apple Inc. stores as the iPhone 5 went on sale to help buyers register their new devices so they can be traced if stolen.

The NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau today deployed officers at the company’s six New York City stores, as well as seven Verizon Wireless and eight AT&T Inc. locations, where they will register serial numbers of new devices along with the owner’s name and contact information, according to a statement.

Earlier this year, the NYPD deployed patrol officers with technology that allows them to locate stolen iPhones and other stolen Apple products and apprehend those responsible, and officers have used the technology on their personal phones to recover property and make arrests.

“I’m glad they’re there,” said Jessica Mellow, 27, a model and artist who was one of the first 10 people in line this morning at the Apple Store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. “I’ve had three phones stolen.”

Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about how many devices officers have registered today.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is poised for a record iPhone 5 debut and may not be able to keep up with demand as customers lined up in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and New York to pick up the latest model of its top-selling product.

Global sales started at the Apple Store in Sydney’s George Street, and began in New York at 8 a.m. local time. With a new wireless contract, the device costs $199, $299 or $399 in the U.S., depending on the amount of memory.

Largest Debut

The crowds reinforce estimates from analysts that the iPhone 5 will be the largest consumer-electronics debut in history. Apple may sell as many as 10 million iPhones during the weekend sales rush, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos.

More than 250 of the devices were stolen from a store in London about seven hours before they were scheduled to go on sale, Metropolitan Police said. About 190 were taken from three outlets in western Japan’s Osaka prefecture earlier today, Kyodo News reported, citing the police.

Metropolitan Police issued images of a 23-year-old man who works as an assistant at the 02 Store in the Tandem Centre in Wimbledon in connection with the London thefts, according to a statement.

Tennessee Theft

In Tennessee, a team of at least eight thieves used three stolen vehicles to break into a Best Buy Co. store in Murfreesboro this week and steal more than $100,000 worth of electronics, mostly Apple products, said Kyle Evans, a spokesman for the city’s police department. They didn’t get any iPhone 5s, he said.

“We believe that’s what the thieves were targeting because that’s a location where they would have been kept,” Evans said in a telephone interview.

Murfreesboro police believe the theft may be related to similar burglaries that occurred throughout the country in the past week, in places including Knoxville, Tennessee, Florida and California, and are working with investigators in those states, Evans said.

New York police have stepped up enforcement against thefts of Apple products during the past year. Last month, officers from the department’s Transit Bureau conducting a decoy operation arrested two teenagers after they stole an iPhone from one of the officers’ backpacks.

‘Drove Spike’

Apple’s “Find My iPhone” application allows users to find and protect their iPhones, iPads and Mac computers through another device or by logging on to the Internet.

“The theft of Apple phones and other hand-held devices drove the spike in robberies and larceny this year,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement. “Individuals alert to their surroundings are less likely to become victims, and Operation ID will help those whose property is lost or stolen to get it back,”

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