May 6, 2014 at 9:24 AM ET
Like most people, Sarah Maguire considers her smartphone more than something to make calls on. So after it got stolen and police wouldn’t go after the thief, the 26-year-old California yoga teacher took matters into her own hands.
"It had all my photos, all my texts messages, addresses," she told NBC's Miguel Almaguer. "I probably write down information that I shouldn't write down in my phone."
Maguire said she and her roommate noticed their phones missing after a recent night out on the town. She immediately turned to her computer to utilize the “Find my iPhone” app.
Maguire tracked down the devices to West Corvina, a quiet Los Angeles suburb 30 miles away. She said she then went after the phones herself after being told by police they were too busy to do so.
Authorities say this trend of vigilante justice has been a growing concern.
"We really don't want people going on their own, into a sketchy neighborhood or to a sketchy house or apartment to try to find a phone that’s really worth only a couple hundred bucks," said Andrew Smith, Los Angeles Police Department commander. “It’s not worth anybody getting hurt over.”
More than three million smartphones were stolen last year, making apps similar to “Find my iPhone” more popular than ever. The programs use technology that can pinpoint a phone’s location down to a specific address.
That's how Maguire ended up in front of a home in West Corvina.
"Knocking on the door was a little bit scary,” she admitted. She said after a short confrontation, a large man eventually handed over both phones.
Maguire knows things could have ended differently.
“I think I'm lucky, yeah. Definitely,” she said.
But she still believes she did the right thing, even though, she said, “I think my dad would probably say differently.”