Photo of Find My iPhone app by lamazone.
Photo of Find My iPhone app by lamazone.

Reid Brennen and his wife were upstairs sleeping in their home on Lexington Street when they heard a crash downstairs in the early morning hours last week.

After checking around the house, Brennen reasoned that it was just the cat being un-catlike. But awake and up, Brennen went out in the backyard to put a bag in the recycling bin, and there on the ground was a pair of strange shoes.

His line of sight scanned up to a rear window. The screen had been pulled back and the window opened. Somebody had been in the house.

Once he woke up his wife and they took another look around, the Brennens discovered that the intruders had left with his wife’s purse, her phone, a slew of personal electronics, a briefcase and a traveling bag — quite possibly stuffed with all their loot.

“We made a police report, two police officers were there pretty quickly,” Brennen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “They said someone would be back later to take fingerprints.”

Brennen left for his job in Santa Clara, and as he drove down the highway, he flashed on his iPhone and the “Find My iPhone,” app. He pulled over to the side of the road, turned it on and sure enough, it was tracking his iPad, too.

“I noticed my iPad walking around the Castro,” said Brennen, who quickly got a hold of a police sergeant from the Mission District station. While officers went out on the street, Brennen relayed the tracking information. He could see his iPad moved towards the Mission along 18th Street.

Officers scanned the crowds of pedestrians crossing Dolores and 18th, but there was no way to tell who had the stolen iPad.

“I just kept feeding information to the police sergeant, and when the guy, or should I say my iPad, turned north on Valencia from 18th, that was it, he was the only person doing that,” Brennen said.

The cops nabbed the suspect and the knapsack full of booty he was carrying. A few hours later, Brennen was at the Valencia station waiting in line to retrieve his iPad, his wife’s car keys and most of the other stolen items.

“As things go, the only bad things was that someone was in the house while we were sleeping, and two, we did have some stuff that was not recovered,” he said.

According to data provided by SFPD, there were 68 residential burglaries with force or “hot prowls” in the Mission District in 2012. A “hot prowl” is defined as a burglary in which the suspect enters a dwelling or business while the occupant is present.

Brennen said that in the course of the morning, five police officers worked on his case and he ended meeting them all. The only person he failed to meet was the burglar, he said.

His advice? Load the “Find My iPhone” on all devices.

“Most people don’t use an alarm system when they are home and asleep. We don’t plan to get one,” Brennen said. “We will lock the windows. The guy was able to get in because the window was cracked a little. I also put a light on the front so you can’t really see into our house any more which is too bad. The main thing is to make it as difficult as possible to see there is a need to get into the house.”

Tech experts say establishing a passcode on all devices is also a wise move.

Tech blogger Alvaro Bernedo, writing on Guiding Tech, recommends enabling the free “Find My iPhone” service, keeping your cell’s firmware current, enabling passcode lock and auto-lock, disabling location services and activating the iPhone setting that allows users to erase all data on the phone if someone enters a wrong password 10 times in a row.

Brennen said he was relieved his story had a happy ending.

“I don’t want to end up getting paranoid and putting bars on the windows, that’s not where I want to go.”

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Greta Mart is a Bay Area-based newspaper reporter and freelance writer, and currently a student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. From 2005 to 2012 she was a staff reporter at two community newspapers in WA and CA, and has contributed to several Bay Area and Seattle area newspapers, as well as Pacific Yachting and Italy's Gulliver and La Republicca's D magazines. Greta holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and studied history at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She lives aboard her sailboat at the Berkeley Marina.

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  1. I can assure you that this is NOT fiction. We were incredibly lucky that we were not harmed, that the police were very responsive, and that there were no higher priority items that morning. I’d be happy to provide the names and badge numbers of the amazing police officers involved…

    Now back to fumigating my house…thanks for your good wishes!

  2. This “story” is just that — a complete fiction. Notice how they never name any of the police officers? It’s always “a police sargeant” or “the cops”, never an actual name that can be verified.

    First rule of journalism is name your sources. Since they went out of their way to avoid that, it is clearly a piece of fiction written to support Apple.

    Greta Mart, please disclose your financial ties with Apple…

    1. Actually we respond to situations like this all the time, have a laptop I suggest getting low jack for laptops. I phone I pad situations the first thing we do in a robbery is ask for your I cloud password to try and track your apple products cold burglary reports are a little harder to do anything because usually the items are turned off by the time we get called out to the scene. We are working very hard to try and reduce property crime in sf and as our staffing increases I am hopeful you will see results. #2048

  3. Hey Steven, I am with you. I had my laptop, ipad, ipod, and hard drive stolen. The cops showed up 30 minutes later and said they couldn’t do anything else except fill out the police report. I think this story may be great PR for the app or just pure fictional.

    1. The difference is there was nobody to actively pursue in your situation. It didn’t matter if they got there in 10 minutes or 5 hours because the evidence, if there was any, wasn’t going anywhere and they need to be able to respond to emergencies.

  4. Some people just won’t take “yes” for an answer! This is good news, folks. How about saying, “Good news and thanks for the tips!” ?

  5. And this isn’t fiction? The SFPD coming to a crime scene and looking for fingerprints??? And actually responding when you find your device with ‘Find My iPhone’?? Just, wow. NOT my experience with them.