Undercover cops in San Francisco are looking to cut down the amount of iPhone thefts there are in their city. However, these cops are taking a different approach than just running after iPhone robbers and cuffing them. Instead, they are going after the buyers of the stolen products, in a scheme that they call “cutting the head off the snake”. San Francisco Police Captain Joe Garrity says that if the iPhone thieves aren’t able to sell their goods, there’s no market for them.
In the scheme, an undercover cop, Tom Lee, dresses up as a normal civilian and speaks like the buyers that he is targeting. He has worked at an Apple retail store before, so he knows all of the lingo of persuading people to purchase his goods. When approaching a buyer, he confirms that the iPhone he is selling is stolen, and instead of offering a price for the phone, he asks the potential buyer to make an offer.
Once the buyer offers to purchase the phone, and begins the transaction process, Lee signals nearby undercover officers to come in and arrest the buyer. With this scheme, the police officers are poisoning the market for stolen electronic goods and making would-be buyers think twice before making an illegal transaction. However, this scheme has stirred up some controversy in the city.
Chesa Boudin, a San Francisco Public Defender, says,
“You’re basically creating crime or luring people to commit crimes. It’s an outrageous waste of resources.”
George Gascon, a San Francisco District Attorney, states that these operations “yield little deterrence” and don’t really lower iPhone thefts in the city. Instead, he believes that these sting operations fuel the fire for more iPhone thefts. He says,
“The numbers don’t appear to be abating at all. This is like a drug war — the more arrests you make for drug use, the more drug use seems to go on.”
Many have voiced their outrage over these schemes, saying that it’s entrapment and that the police should allocate their resources to more pressing matters. These schemes have been used in other cities as well, including New York, where crime rate has increased up to 5 times due to iPhone thefts. Police believe that by going after the buyers, they will be able to create fear in the market that will hopefully kill the demand for stolen iPhones and in turn reduce iPhone thefts in their cities.
[via Huffington Post]