DFW AIRPORT (CBSDFW.COM) – Statistics show it happens every single day: A traveler leaves behind an iPad, laptop or a cell phone on an airplane or at an airport.
And instead of being turned into lost and found, the devices end up with thieves. But a common tool is helping victims get their electronics back.
Last year, there were about 370 reported thefts at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. That’s just more than one per day.
Police say they’re able to track down these missing devices with more regularity now because of what is built into many of them.
Just ask Ryan Rothermel, who left his iPad in the seat pocket of an airplane last October. He went back to the plane 10 minutes later, but his device was gone.
“They told me, ‘OK, it’ll show up in the next day or two, maybe a week,’ but it didn’t so it was pretty aggravating,” he said.
Rothermel was lucky enough to get his iPad back. When another passenger’s iPad was stolen at DFW Airport, police there say they used the device’s GPS app to not only track it down, but the suspect accused of stealing it.
“It’s been a huge help in the recoveries and the volume of recoveries,” said Lt. Lonnie Freeman, lead theft detective at DFW Airport. “Because if they steal one, they steal two, they steal 20.”
Freeman says they’ve received calls from theft victims tracking their stolen iPads, cell phones and other electronic gadgets.
“’I just flew through the airport. I now see my iPad moving through the city of Irving, Bedford or Euless or wherever it may be,’ and they turn it over to us,” Freeman said.
In Rothermel’s case, police tracked his iPad to Henry Thuita, 49, who works for a third party contractor to clean out planes after flights.
Records show airport detectives found a dozen other iPads, laptops, e-readers and cell phones at his home.
Police also recently arrested TSA employee Clayton Dovel, who is accused of stealing seven iPads out of checked baggage. They tracked the devices to his Bedford home. Neither Thuita nor Dovel were available for comment Monday night.
Rothermel said he had activated his device’s GPS, “But unfortunately I was following FAA regulations and I had turned my iPad onto airplane mode, which deactivates any Internet activity.”
Rothermel said he was able to get his iPad back because he registered it with Apple and wrote down its serial number.
Police suggest everyone do the same, no matter what product they own. They also recommend activating the GPS app.
They also say to file a theft report with airport detectives –– Freeman says you’d be surprised that most people don’t.
Travelers can also tell police when they see a theft or other crime happen anonymously and quickly: Just text DFWDPS and their tip to 847411.
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