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Double trouble: iPhone thief busted when his stolen iPhone is stolen again

Jan. 28, 2013 at 3:56 PM ET

Rosa Golijan / NBC News /

Apple iPhones have become so prone to being snatched by thieves and robbers that the criminal act has inspired a nickname — "Apple picking" — as well as a significant spike in the New York City crime rate. And now and then, this Apple picking results in utterly bizarre stories.

Take, for example, the tale of a thief who stole an iPhone that another thief stole from a teenage girl.

The incident took place on a single day last November, according to a recent story by the New York Times' Michael Wilson. It began when a 16-year-old girl's white iPhone 4S — a last-generation device — was snatched by a boy who'd approached her with two of his friends. The girl told two nearby police officers, who drove around with the teen in a failed attempt to find the boys. Then one of the officers suggested calling the phone.

Imagine the officer's surprise when another police officer answered.

Turns out, when the boy attempted to sell the iPhone in another neighborhood, his would-be customer — a man by the name of Jean Louis Colsun — did something the kid should've been ready for. He grabbed the iPhone and ran. So the boy, like his own victim from earlier in the day, flagged down police officers.

The kid got creative too, a public information officer for the New York Police Department's Office of the Deputy Commissioner told TODAY.com. Rather than simply telling cops that Colsun grabbed his phone and ran away, the kid accused Colsun of trying to sell him his own iPhone, stolen at some other imagined point in time.

Unfortunately for the young, imaginative thief, the officers looking into the two incidents caught on quickly. Both the teen girl and the boy were brought to the local precinct and asked to unlock the iPhone, which had a security code set up. The girl succeeded, the boy did not. Both the boy, who remains unnamed as he is a minor, and Colsun ended up in handcuffs while the girl got back her iPhone.

Quite a tale, no? The only thing stranger is that it's not even the first odd iPhone theft or loss story we've encountered.

In January 2012, "approximately 10" Berkeley police officers investigated the theft of an iPhone reportedly stolen from the son of their commanding officer. Some of them crossed city limits for the search and claimed overtime. In May 2012, a woman documented her stolen iPhone's adventures on Facebook, thanks to photos which were automatically uploaded to her iPhone account. In August 2012, New York Times technology writer David Pogue's lost iPhone was subject of a strange search which involved help from tech blog Gizmodo, Apple's Find My iPhone feature, and a police officer who happened to read about the whole incident. Heck, even this reporter hasn't remained untouched when it comes to iPhone theft — my iPhone 3GS was snatched right out of my hand in broad daylight a few years ago.

iPhone-related crime has gotten to the point that the NYPD is actually blaming iPhone theft for rising crime rates in New York City. (Not surprising, considering that the number of Apple product thefts jumped by 40 percent in 2012.) The NYPD went as far as to launch an initiative dubbed the "Anti-Apple Picking Campaign" in an effort to reduce Apple-related thefts. The ID program allows folks to register their devices so that they can be identified in case of theft. Additionally, devices can be taken to police stations to be engraved with a unique ID number.

While we do not know the impact this initiative so far, we predict the anti-theft program will be expanded beyond Apple targets once Google Glass launches. (If those white Apple earbuds catch the attention of thieves, just think of what an effect a gadget worn visibly, like a pair of glasses, might have.)

We don't dare guess when, if ever, the Galaxy S III, the iPhone's Android counterpart, will garner an equal amount of attention from the convoluted criminal underworld though.

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