Last week the New Haven Police Department carried out an undercover sting operation, raiding local establishments that buy misappropriated Apple products in an attempt to stop thieves from snatching valuables such as iPhones and Mac computers.

The operation, called “Apple Harvest” required a team of two dozen officers and a group of detectives to search four local establishments in New Haven: Wireless Express, New Haven Furniture Plus, Elm City Wireless and Wireless Wizard. Five people were arrested during the undercover operation on various charges, including operating as a secondhand dealership without a license, which is a felony. Yale students tend to be a target for Apple product thievery and students interviewed said that this raid serves as a reminder to be careful while carrying Apple products around campus.

The purpose of the mission was to deter future crimes. Thieves can make between $75 and $100 for selling one smartphone to a disreputable dealer, according to a press release sent by the NHPD. The release said that by raiding these dealers, the NHPD hopes to send a “strong message” to criminals that this activity will not be tolerated in the future.

Unfortunately, the stolen items will likely not be returned to their owners. Though the police have completed the investigation, it is difficult for them to return the recovered products due to the sheer number of items and the difficulty of identifying and matching them with their rightful owner, said New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman. He explained that the process of identifying the stolen phones and other personal electronics and pairing them to specific theft cases is overwhelming and complex, and many people whose phones are stolen do not have a record of their device’s serial number. The department has a 2,250 square foot property room that is currently filled with stolen products.

“There are thousands of cell phones to go through,” Hartman said. He called the process of matching the stolen phones with their owners, “virtually impossible.” He added that the police department has already received hundreds of calls from local residents trying to retrieve their electronics.

Hartman said that everyone with electronic devices should record their descriptions and serial numbers so that if they are stolen the police can trace the item back to the owner.

Though the stolen items will likely not be returned, Hartman said the mission was far from a failure.
“This is much more important as a future message to people,” Hartman said.

The problem of Apple product thievery is very relevant to the Yale student population, and though New Haven has not experienced a trend of increased theft in the past few years, there is a yearly increase when Yale students arrive on campus in the fall and a drop off in electronic theft when students leave for the summer, Hartman said.

The raids were conducted at 604 Ella T. Grasso Blvd., 296 Whalley Ave., 210 Whalley Ave. and 768 Chapel St.