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Suspects take selfie on stolen iPhone, helping police find them

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Three teens have been charged with robbery after they allegedly mugged a man of his iPhone, then took a selfie at the scene of another mugging -- a photograph that revealed their location and identities to police.

"There was a tracking device on the iPhone and the suspects posted a picture that went to the victim’s cloud," Const. Rob Carver said Thursday.

"The cloud" refers to iCloud, a wireless storage account attached to Apple devices to organize and back up data in an easy-to-access location. The crooks didn’t know it would pinpoint their location, but Carver said it sure made quick work of the arrests of three youths hours after the theft.

Electronic technology with its global positioning and tracking capabilities is changing the way the police work, he said.

"The impact is huge. Three or four years ago, we started looking at (the technology) as an option. Now it’s standard procedure," Carver said.

It all started when a man, 30, was mugged in the rear lane of the 300 block of Stradbrook Avenue in Osborne Village, at about 5 p.m. Tuesday evening.

One youth distracted the victim by asking for a cigarette, then two others tackled him. The victim sustained unspecified minor injuries.

The tracking device for his iPhone had been activated, so the victim reported the mugging to police, then used a computer to follow his device as the three suspects went on with their evening.

Four hours later, police got a second call, this time from Robson Street and Kernaghan Avenue in the Mission Gardens area of Transcona. A 15-year-old teen said he’d been mugged by three strangers, all youths. He, too, had minor injuries.

That’s where things went sideways for the suspects.

The location of the teen's mugging coincided with a selfie taken on the first victim’s stolen iPhone. The photo automatically uploaded on to the victim's iCloud account and he passed the information on to police.

Officers arrested three youths, aged 14, 15 and 16 at 2:30 a.m. and charged them with two counts of robbery with violence.

Carver said in this case, the technology worked because the victim worked with police. It might have been a different story if the first victim had pulled a vigilante act and gone out on his own, Carver said.

"What we don’t want people doing is taking matters into their own hands and tracking down their own material," Carver said.


Updated on Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 1:31 PM CST: Minor tweaks.

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