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A Post-Holiday Tale of Theft and Goodness

A stolen iPhone leads to the uncovering of warmth and humanity from the human community.

Perhaps you’ve heard the tales of the iPhone thieves – folks who ask to borrow your iPhone to make an emergency call, then once you’ve handed it over, they run. This happened so often that on Christmas morning, when my 15-year-old son opened his brand new iPhone box, I had a long talk with him about this very scenario.

“Never loan this phone to anyone," I said. "If someone really has an emergency, ask them what number you can call for them.” He nodded, as kids that age do, but you could tell he was wondering what in the world made me so paranoid and negative.

Two days later, a young man approached him and asked to borrow his phone to make an emergency call. As my son began to put his phone in his pocket, the guy snatched it out of his hand and ran. My son followed in pursuit, and found him hiding behind a garbage can. The young man stood up, hit my son in the head and continued running.

His new phone, the one he had been waiting almost two years to get, was gone with that guy. On top of that, he was now going to have to tell his mother that his new phone was gone.

He walked into a nearby guitar store, where the guy behind the counter heard his story. He took my son out and walked around the neighborhood to see if they could find the culprit and get the phone back. Coming up empty on that score, the guy walked my son to the police station so he could at least file a report. And that’s when my wife and I walked in.

“Hey,” the  guy from the guitar store said to my wife. “What are you doing here?”

“That’s my son,” she said, much to his surprise.

So the guitar store guy was not acting out of any sense of favors for the child of someone he knew. It was just some random kid, as far as he was concerned, one who was upset and in need of help. And this guy went way out of his way to help him, just as the thief went way out of his way to hurt him.

My wife and I posted the event on our respective Facebook sites, since it is apparently the new repository for hurt and outrage, as well as photos of one’s dinner, dogs and cats.

A few hours later, another musician friend of ours was at our door. He asked to see our son. He handed him a box. Inside was an iPhone. Not a new one, but the same model as the one that was lost, and to our son, it was every bit as good as new.

Later that day, I heard that the guitar store guy was putting together a fund to raise enough to buy our son a new phone.

Our kid got a lot of lessons out of all this, not the least of which is that this rash of iPhone robberies is very real. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep your phone stashed away in public. He also learned that he was brave enough to chase an assailant, and smart enough to back down when things got violent.

But most importantly, he learned the value of the human community. One of my Facebook friends, responding to my rant about the robbery, said “welcome to conservatism, Jim.”

While I appreciate that intention and understand its meaning, my views on crime and punishment have not changed a bit. Because the robbery didn’t end with the crime; it provided an opportunity for others to show their kindness. If I were to confront the young man who stole my son’s phone on the street, he would not be greeted with love and understanding; this guy hit my kid. I would do what I could to see that he received his just rewards. But that doesn’t mean I believe in two types of people – good guys and bad guys. I believe, in the end, we’re all people. Capable of both, constantly forced to choose.

Let’s hope most of us continue to make the right choices most of the time.

Chris J Kapsalis January 05, 2013 at 03:18 PM
I disagree about good people bad people. But you can be a better person. Once you start lying cheating and steeling you aint got nothing to say if someone robs you, or your brother, or mom, cause your doing it to someone else's.
Barbara Doherty January 05, 2013 at 03:53 PM
It would be helpful to know where in Walnut Creek this happened, just we all know specifically where there may be serious I-phone scoping going on. I don't have one, or my kids (yet!). Your son has been victimized and it takes a while for that to settle in, in most cases. But you seem to be supportive parents and writing about how difficult it must have been for your 15 year to confront the thief seems helpful, too. The next time your son has to run after someone (if ever) we have to think there WILL be somebody to help out - please send him the message to not ever give up. Thank you for sharing your personal family information. The point of my post is to let your son know that I think THESE stupid punks will get caught, and many people in Walnut Creek will resist the temptation to keep their electronics out in public as a direct result of his theft and your article.
Chris J Kapsalis January 05, 2013 at 04:53 PM
This happens everywhere, anywhere. I bet the next places they scope are the places people have their guard down a little and don't exspect it.
chris bybee January 05, 2013 at 05:02 PM
All I phones have ways of seeing where they are. That might be useful to retrieve it
Jenny J Starmack January 05, 2013 at 08:49 PM
What a beautiful story Jim - I saw it unfold and was also moved by the love and compassion of people, this town, the musical community, and even a best friend.
Jenny J Starmack January 05, 2013 at 08:51 PM
This incident happened in Martinez. My daughter was alsoa witness when a friend and she were eating lunch on an outdoor patio in Downtown Oakland and a guy on a bicycle simply reached over and grabbed the phone off the table, and rode away.... poof - gone in an instant.
One more time with feeling January 05, 2013 at 11:36 PM
IOS5 (on iPod Touch, iPhone 3GS, 4, 4s and 5 models) has a free app from Apple's app store, "Find iPhone". Used in conjunction with basic iCloud service (free), and a browser running on any current operating system's computer with internet connectivity, you can: * Locate the iDevice (if it is on and connected to the internet); * Send a message to the phone's screen; * Lock the device remotely and * Wipe the data from the wandering iDevice, turning it into a brick... ... among other things. http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/find-my-iphone.html Lots of examples of people tracking their cell phones and notifying the Police regarding location. Search "find iphone news". All that is needed is registration. That's free, too - and in the case of registering with Apple, you won't get a load of unwanted spam (even if your computer uses a non-Apple operating system). You can also add certain Windows and MacOSX computers to your device tracking list. Android and Windows mobile have similar useful applications. Some cost, some are embedded in other apps as a "feature". Mean people suck.
TMoraga January 06, 2013 at 06:10 AM
I highly recommend the tracking app. A good friend followed his IPhone around Vegas for three days. He got it back and the perp was arrested at his place of work. We got grandpa on a smart phone last year. He loves it even texts when pushed. He moved here from out of state. One day he calls me at work says he is trying to find some shop in Walnut Creek. Then tells me to look up his location and to help him find the place. LoL via the phone tracker.
Cheryll January 08, 2013 at 12:46 AM
Yes, Tracking App!! I am so sorry he had to be involved in such an awful event, but really gald he is alright and all is well now. I LOVE that guitar guy!! Downtown isn't such a bad place, although bad folks will definately come there. Beware, but be kind.

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