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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Newsroom

Tracking software, responsive police thwart iPad thief

Incident at Anschutz Medical Campus underscores importance of securing valuables

2/22/2012
Professor David Jones holds iPad he recovered thanks to responsive police, tracking software


By Chris Casey | University Communications

AURORA, Colo. - David Jones, an associate professor in the School of Medicine's Department of Pharmacology, will close and lock his office door from now on -- even if he steps out for a minute.

That's all it took for a thief to walk off with Jones' iPad on the morning of Feb. 16. Jones went down the hall to assist a colleague on the sixth floor of Research 1 South on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Returning about 30 minutes later, he noticed his iPad missing from his desk and promptly called University Police.

Fortunately, Jones had activated the GPS tracking software on the device. Through his iPhone he watched the movement of his iPad -- the software refreshed with a "ping" every five minutes -- allowing police officers to get a general fix on the suspect's location.

During the ensuing 90-minute hunt, the "pings" showed the iPad moving around the campus, including in the University of Colorado Hospital Emergency Department and the cafeteria in the hospital's Anschutz Inpatient Pavilion.

"They were incredibly responsive," Jones said of the University Police, which deployed about eight officers, including Chief Doug Abraham, in the search. "They literally saturated the buildings with people looking for him. There were police officers everywhere."

The search was aided by lobby cameras which allowed the police to match people who looked out of place in the "ping" locations and then distribute photos to officers.

"He was just walking around looking for opportunity," Abraham said of the thief, who also stole an iPhone from the Children's Hospital Colorado administration building. "These are crimes of opportunity this guy was committing. The key is to take away these opportunities."

The "pings" eventually showed up in a store across Colfax Avenue from the Anschutz Medical Campus. An officer found a suspect inside with a backpack that contained the missing iPad and iPhone. After the devices were confirmed to belong to the Anschutz Medical Campus personnel, the man was arrested on two counts of theft and two counts of escape, as he had allegedly also violated rules of his halfway house, Abraham said.

The incident underscores the importance of keeping valuables locked and out of view, but also of keeping an eye out for individuals who may look out of place on campus, Abraham said. Per university policy, he said, don't hesitate to ask someone, in a non-threatening manner, to present university identification if his or her ID badge is not visible. "Crooks like anonymity, and once someone has talked to them they are no longer anonymous."

Both Abraham and Jones emphasized the importance of activating the security software that's available on most smart phones and tablet devices. "Typically, you don't miss these things until hours after it was stolen. We were lucky with Dr. Jones -- he knew it was missing immediately," Abraham said.

Jones has since made a point of telling colleagues not to get lulled into a false sense of security in their research facility. As he knows all too well, it only takes seconds.

"The obvious thing is to keep your valuables locked up and out of sight," he said.

For an emergency, dial 911. for police dispatch and nonemergencies, call 303-724-4444.

(Photo: Associate Professor David Jones holds the iPad he recovered thanks to responsive police and tracking software.)

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Contact: christopher.casey@ucdenver.edu

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