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How Niki and Jen got Jen's iPhone back after it was stolen

They're not exactly Starsky and Hutch, but they are quite a duo. Crime fighters, even.

Nicole Johnson and Jennifer Hodgins work the breakfast shift at the Pok-A-Dot most mornings. They pretty much know all the customers and the customers know them. A morning at the Dot when both are working is, well, entertaining.

That's one reason Jen was more than a little perturbed when a customer -- not a regular, but not a first-timer either -- stole Jen's iPhone.

The phone cost Jen $700 cold hard cash because she's not on a contract.

"My boyfriend, John, was using the phone and he set it down," Jen said. "I went to the bathroom and came back five minutes later. The phone was gone."

Jen tried calling the phone and found it was turned off.

"Our customers like to play pranks on us all the time, so at first we were thinking that was what was going on," Johnson said.

Niki and Jen have their phones set up so each can use the iPhone app "Find My Phone" to find each other's phones.

When Niki arrived at work, Niki used "Find My Phone" to lock Jen's phone and alert her if it was turned back on.

They also filed a police report.

About an hour later, the phone came on. It was on North Spruce Street.

Jen and a customer headed over to North Spruce and found the car they believed had been driven by the customer who stole it. They followed the car, but the driver sped away.

The information was given to police and an officer warned Jen about trying to chase down criminals. He also said the police would follow up.

"The phone was locked up and he couldn't do anything with it," Johnson said. "All this kid could do was turn off and on."

By the next evening, no word from the police and with the phone off, Niki couldn't track it.

Then it popped back on.

The phone was moving down Route 33 and Jen and Niki feared it was headed toward Rochester never to be seen again.

John hopped in his car and started down Route 33.

Niki started pinging the phone -- making it sound a tone repeatedly -- and sending it messages.

"We kept saying, 'we want the phone back no questions asked. Just leave the phone some place where we can find it. We won't pursue you. We just want the phone back."

About five minutes later, the phone stopped moving. The person who had it ditched it by the side of the road and John found it.

The women were elated.

"We were literally two 30-year-old women who kind of went back to our 14-year-old selves," Johnson said. "We had a major happy dance. It went on for about five minutes."

Johnson said they were so excited because, "I don't know one person who's had a phone stolen, literally, actually stolen, and gotten their phone back."

Interestingly, the feature Johnson and Hodgins used to get the phone back is under attack.

Apple is being sued by a group of lawyers who claim their client owns the patent for the feature that allows a computer to track a phone.

The patent was filed in 1995.

According to the Gigaom article, there are people known as patent trolls who buy patents that never made it from the drawing board to an actual product and then look for products that appear to infringe on the patent. Then, they sue. That appears to be the case with the "Find My Phone" lawsuit, but if the suit prevails it could spell the end for a very useful feature for recovering lost or stolen phones.

There are an estimated 1.8 million smartphones stolen every year. Thieves can use the phones for identity theft or sell the phones overseas for good money.

Other smartphone makers are looking into creating "kill switches" similar to what Apple provides its customers with iPhones.

Here's an article on how to use "Find My Phone." If you have a Droid, there are apps available to help protect your device against theft.

Michelle Wheatley
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I am glad they did this...I had to do this with my daughter's phone when it was stolen at Darien Lake last year ... I logged onto her account and seen all the numbers that were either dialed or texted and I spent 2 hours on the phone calling all the numbers and found one that was to the girl's father who had stolen the phone -- I explained the situation to him and he got back to me and found out his daughter had taken it from Darien Lake and he would return to me as soon as he could -- he dropped it off at my friends work in downtown Rochester -- I was thankful for the tracking of numbers that were called or texted Smile

WAY TO GO GIRLS!!!!!

Vince Kern
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Great story, great ending and great courage by Niki and Jen. This is a great story for many reasons...thanks for including the info about ''finding my iPhone.''

Shannon Laurer
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My niece lost her's at Darien during a concert this year, my Brother was a man on a mission! They tracked it and narrowed it to a house in Buffalo, they googled earthed it via the GPS #'s , after locking it and filing a police report he went to town sending messages with tones giving specific info on where the phone was and to return it to the nearest Verizon! An hour later her phone along with two others were returned to the store. These tracking apps are amazing!

Mark Brudz
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I have had GPS tracking on all of our phones for years, One time my daughters car broke down in a remote area, using the system, we pin pointed her location in 5 minutes. Amazing technology.

Tim Miller
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A buddy uses his to keep track of his wife (in a good way, not a "she's cheating on me" way). She has the same access to track his phone. Seems like a good couples thing to do.

Of course, when he goes someplace he does not want to be tracked to (beer pub after leaving a wake), he puts it on "airplane mode"... Wink

Autumn Connolly
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How does a waitress from the Dot own a seven hundred dollar phone?

Kyle Couchman
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I don't know Autumn, ever hear of a tax return or some other simple explanation?

Daniel Jones
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Autumn - How is that any of your business? Some of us don't treat wait staff like crap and tip well, I don't know her but the Pok-A-Dot is a great place and the service is always top notch.

Billie Owens
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Autumn, maybe waitresses get a $700 phone by saving money and waiting until they have enough to pay cash for something instead of slappin' down plastic.

Beth Kinsley
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Quite possibly the dumbest comment I've ever seen on the Batavian.

Frank Penna Jr
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Autumn, did you think the phone could have been a Christmas or birthday gift from a relative. Also alot of times when renewing/upgrading your contract the phone is free or costs alot less than the actual replacement value. Rather than being happy she got her phone back, you were worried where or how she got the phone.

John Roach
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I have to agree with Beth.

Jeff Allen
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I think we sometimes spend too much time worrying about how someone else got something as opposed to figuring out how we can work to get it for ourselves. My daughter works 2-3 jobs while attending college full time. She just started her third year and has paid her way so far. She has a few things someone might look at and question how, the answer is simple, never underestimate the power of a young person willing to work hard, save, make sound financial decisions, and spend wisely. Those young people ARE our future. God help us when we are forced to live under the leadership of an entire generation of freeloaders.

Kyle Couchman
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I have to agree Jeff..... Its a shame that young people like your daughter don't get enough pats on their back for doing things the way they should. While a lot of their peers just get things handed to them and such. Its fast becoming the norm.

bud prevost
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and there has been some stooopid stuff said here

Mark Brudz
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I couldn't have said that better Jeff, nor do I think could anyone else. I have the same situation here, a 3rd year college student who isn't afraid to work for what he wants, and he usually earns it with little if any help from me.

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