AirPods help police crack multiple summer larcenies

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 7, 2022

GROSSE POINTE CITY/PARK — A pair of Apple AirPods led police to two men suspected in dozens of larcenies from vehicles in Grosse Pointe City and Grosse Pointe Park over the summer.

According to police reports, a 46-year-old homeless man living under a viaduct near Greektown Casino was arrested Aug. 20 by the Grosse Pointe City Public Safety Department, while a 38-year-old homeless man living near the 46-year-old suspect was arrested by the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department Aug. 22 in that same general location.

Grosse Pointe City Detective Sgt. Joseph Adams said that the AirPods and a distinctive black backpack were stolen from a vehicle while it was parked in the 700 block of Lakeland Street between the late night hours of Aug. 19 and 9 a.m. Aug. 20. The Lakeland victim had borrowed the AirPods from a friend who lived in the 600 block of University Place. The woman who owned the AirPods was able to track them to the area of Interstate 375 and Larned Street in downtown Detroit.

The AirPods can’t be tracked the same way an iPhone or iPad can be, but Adams said that if there are enough Apple devices in the same area, they can be traced to a location based on that signal activity. At the time police were looking for the suspect with the AirPods, Adams said, there was a large crowd attending a Kenny Chesney concert at Ford Field, and many of the concertgoers had iPhones.

“They do send a signal to other (Apple) devices,” Adams said of the AirPods.

Police responded by heading to the area in search of a suspect. Adams said they spotted a 56-year-old Detroit man carrying the exact backpack that had been stolen from one of the vehicles and approached him. The 56-year-old man said he had been given the backpack by the 46-year-old suspect. The 56-year-old — who cooperated with police and is considered a witness in the case — told police he would get the 46-year-old suspect. The witness reportedly said the suspect had told him that he had been “breaking into cars in Grosse Pointe.”

When Adams saw the witness speaking with the suspect, he approached the suspect, yelling, “Stop — police!” but the suspect started to flee on his bike. Adams got back inside his patrol vehicle and used the vehicle to block the bike, at which point the suspect abandoned the bike and started to run. After Adams arrested the suspect, Adams said that he found the missing AirPods in the suspect’s pocket. The case for the AirPods reportedly was inside the recovered backpack obtained from the witness.

Adams said the suspect admitted to having stolen the AirPods in Grosse Pointe. Police were able to electronically confirm that the AirPods and backpack belonged to the City residents.

The 38-year-old suspect, who reportedly had been seen on surveillance footage using a stolen credit card in a business, was arrested in the area of I-375 and Larned while he was panhandling, Adams said. Police said the two suspects appeared to be working with one another.

“It was a tough crime to solve,” Adams said. “We got really lucky.”

He said the two suspects are believed to have committed dozens of larcenies from vehicles in recent months. There have been more than 100 larcenies over the last 90 days just in the City and Park, Adams said.

“It is our belief (these suspects) were responsible for a lot of them,” Adams said.

Police said that they recovered some stolen property on the suspects, but most of what they allegedly took has likely since been sold or spent. Adams said both suspects have heroin addictions.

Although these suspects are now in custody, that doesn’t mean residents can let down their guards.

“People need to be very mindful of locking their cars at night and not leaving any valuables in sight,” Park Public Safety Director Bryan Jarrell said. “Locking your car really deters people the most.”

This investigation required teamwork and a variety of investigative tools to crack.

Jarrell said detectives from the City and Park worked together and “worked very diligently” to track down leads.

“It’s just another example of the professionalism (of the officers) and their ability to solve crimes,” Jarrell said. “It’s a reflection of their training and their dedication to getting the job done.”

The suspects are both facing multiple charges, including larcenies from vehicles, home invasion related to a theft from an attached garage, fraudulent transaction device and tampering with autos.