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Stolen Laptop Calls In! - Will Police Act? 303

Posted by Cliff
broswell asks: "We rent computer equipment and occasionally our equipment gets stolen. I wrote a little VBS script that calls our webserver every hour (script below) and installed it on our laptops. Sure enough, some laptops went missing. One of the stolen laptops is now calling in from a Verizon Internet account which appears to be in a neighboring town. The Baltimore City Police grudgingly filled out a police report 'so we could collect insurance' but don't seem willing to subpoena Verizon, find the address of the end user, recover tha laptop and prosecute the thief. They seem clueless. The Maryland State police has a computer crimes unit. The have a clue, but they claim they don't have jurisdiction. It is not about the money (our customer signed for the computers and will pay for the stolen items), we just want justice." With all of the necessary information in hand of the proper authorities, how likely is it that the stolen laptop will be recovered?


For those interested, here is the script the laptop used to report itself back to its owners:

Set objShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
Set objScriptExec = objShell.Exec("ipconfig /all")
strIpConfig = objScriptExec.StdOut.ReadAll
myvar = "send=" + strIpConfig

do until 0=1
on error resume next
a=HTTPPost("http://www.yourtrackinghost.com/cgi-bin/locator.pl",myvar)
WScript.Sleep 3600000

LOOP

Function HTTPPost(sUrl, sRequest)
set oHTTP = CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP")
oHTTP.open "POST", sUrl,false
oHTTP.setRequestHeader "Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded"
oHTTP.setRequestHeader "Content-Length", Len(sRequest)
oHTTP.send sRequest

HTTPPost = oHTTP.responseText
End Function
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Stolen Laptop Calls In! - Will Police Act?

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  • Media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MeanMF (631837) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:02PM (#15942546) Homepage
    If the police won't do anything, call the local press.
    • Re:Media (Score:4, Informative)

      by Harmonious Botch (921977) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:40PM (#15942654) Homepage Journal
      Good idea, but wrong order. Give Verizon a chance to be the good guy. Call their publicity department first. If they make excuses, then call local media.
      • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ryanr (30917) * <ryan@thievco.com> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:30PM (#15942796) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, I'm sure no one will mind if Verizon gives out customer info without a subpoena. A phone company would only do that kind of thing under rare circumstances.
        • by XO (250276)
          Someone from Verizon could call the police and let them know that they have reason to believe that stolen hardware is operating from such and such a place.
          • by ryanr (30917) *
            That's a fair suggestion, depending on Verizon's policies. As long as there is a case number, Verizon could contact the police and provide info.
      • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:33PM (#15942807)
        Good idea, but wrong order. Give Verizon a chance to be the good guy. Call their publicity department first. If they make excuses, then call local media.

        Why do I get the feeling that you think "being the good guy" equates to giving out their customers' private data without a court order? It really isn't their job to substantiate the cover story or judge their customers. We have courts for that.

        Going through the police is the right way. If they're not doing their job, then publicise that fact. If the shop wants an alternative then they should talk to a lawyer about the possibility of suing the John Doe for something (trespass to property?) and getting a court to order Verizon to provide details that way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by k_187 (61692)
          yeah, verizon does this for the NSA its bad. but they do it so you can get a laptop back and they're the Good guys? Yay slashthink ;)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          The police aren't the right approach at all. Call your district attorney. He/she is much more likely to have a clue.

      • Got supoena? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Give Verizon a chance to be the good guy. Call their publicity department first. If they make excuses, then call local media."

        Hi. I'm not sure which country you hail from, but here in the United States we have something called "due process". Verizon has to receive a supoena before disclosing that type of information. Does not matter how much a company wants to be the "good guy".

        If they don't, they end up on the front page of the NY Times....

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by anagama (611277)
          You are quite correct, a subpoena is the ticket. But it's very easy to get this kind of info in the context of a court case, even a civil case. See Here [slashdot.org].
          • by Savantissimo (893682) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:51PM (#15944992) Journal
            Your linked-to post is quite right, and worth a repost. IANAL but used to just about everything but appear in court working in a small law office in Maryland about 15 years ago. I believe specifically what this guy needs after getting a subpoena for the John Doe's ID is a "writ of replevin" in which the court may order the Sheriff to seize the property after an ex-parte pre-trial show-cause hearing.
            See:
            http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/forms/civil /dccv04br.html [state.md.us] - for specific MD instructions and http://www.courts.state.md.us/district/forms/civil /dccv04.pdf [state.md.us] - the form.

            If you are not in MD you may make a federal case out of it; the U.S. Marshals serve these writs, too. You might find that has drawbacks - you really need a lawyer's advice, not Slashdot's.

            >>anagama (611277) Sunday August 20, @01:07AM (#15943034) wrote:
            If the cops won't help, see the tort of conversion [wikipedia.org]. File a "john doe" civil suit. Once filed, your attorney would have subpoena power -- use it with Verizon to get the name, address, and phone number of the user associated with the IP. Verizon will have an entire department devoted to processing these types of requests -- you'll have no problem except figuring out what their number is. If you represent yourself, you may have to ask the court to issue the subpoena on your behalf. Once you have the identifier, amend your suit to name that party (probably keep the "john does" at least till you're certain you have all the people involved). Also check your states statutes, there may be something specifically related to your situation. The statutes are certainly available online free -- start at your state's homepage (somewhere burried of course).
      • by billstewart (78916) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @04:47AM (#15943399) Journal
        If Verizon requires a subpoena to justify violating the privacy of the person whose IP address you're interested in, and the police won't push the case enough to get you one, you've still got a tort action against the people who ripped you off. You don't know who they are, but you can generally file a civil lawsuit against "John Doe", similar to the way the RIAA files them against John Doe file sharers. That'll let you get the court to give you a subpoena, which should be good enough for Verizon's lawyers. You might or might not be able to do that in small claims court, depending on your local rules and the value of the computers; otherwise it'll probably cost you lawyer money, and therefore might or might not be worth it.

        Do move fast - if the thief sold it to somebody, it might stay there a while, but if they're just checking whether it works or seeing what they can find, they may fence it or pawn it.

      • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

        by julesh (229690) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @04:48AM (#15943402)
        As other posters have said, verizon will need a court order before they can hand out this information.

        But: there's little to stop you from getting one yourself. File a claim for recovery of property against an unknown party. Put a motion before the judge asking for an order that verizon disclose any and all information they have about that IP address, including an explanation of how you know that the IP address is involved. This is as much information as the RIAA have when they make their claims -- you should be able to do exactly the same thing as they're doing.

        Then, once the party is identified, they'll be served with all the relevant documentation. You go to court, claim they have property that belongs to you, and request an order that it is returned, along with compensation for your loss of use of it in the interrim.

        If you do your homework, you shouldn't even need a lawyer for a case this simple.

        Disclaimer: I know little about US civil procedure. What I describe would be possible in the UK, and I understand based on a little reading that procedure is roughly similar in US courts.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by penix1 (722987)
          You got it right with the exception that it is highly advisable to get a lawyer to handle this stuff. Doing it yourself can save money but can also cost you more in the long run when you screw it up.

          B.
    • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Byaninch (837872) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:42PM (#15942658)

      I agree. Police aren't very receptive to ordinary citizens solving crimes and then asking the cops to finish the job. I had a friend who had a check stolen from a USPS blue mailbox. The thieves 'washed' the check and rewrote it for enough to cover a bunch of Gateway computers. Gateway had some problem (that I don't recall) with something that was on back order and called the phone number on the order, which (dumb criminals) was the same as on the check. My friend already had found out a check had been hijacked when other stuff started bouncing. So she got the shipping info - address, tracking # and date - and then took it to the cops. All they had to do was go to the address and arrest whoever accepted the package. Guess if they did. NOT. All they did was 'take a crime report'.

      Cops are probably offended when citizens bring them solved crimes. They're a strange bunch. Anyone who knows one will confirm that. Unless that someone is dating or married to one, in which case that someone is also a strange one. :)

      So I agree. Go the police first, and when they won't 'solve' the crime, tell the media. A local news channel's 'Consumer Watchdog' or whatever they're called in your town is the best bet. It's not really news for the normal broadcast, but it's juicy stuff for those 'we help our viewers' segments.

      • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bluprint (557000) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:23AM (#15943062) Homepage
        Follow the money. There isn't any money in solving such crimes. They are too busy generating profits via traffic and parking tickets and such. Why bother with an actual crime that will use resources when they can target basically good people for cash?
    • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bios_Hakr (68586) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [lacitpx]> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:53PM (#15942695) Homepage
      And make sure to tell them something realy important was on there. Like the names and addresses of the people who attended last year's Police Ball.

      Or maybe Baltimore police don't have balls?

      In all seriousness, file a "John Doe" civil suit in the ISPs district. As part of the action, ask for discovery on a specific IP address. Since you are filing against John Doe, Verizon will most likely consent. Once you have the name and address of the theif, drop the John Doe case and go back to the police with the guy's name, address, phone number, photos of his house and dog. At this point, either the police press charges, or you lodge an official complaint against the cops.

      Look at the following article about how the RIAA uses IP addresses to find people [weblogsinc.com]. You should be using similar tactics. Do some sleuthing once you have the address. Make sure you aren't going after some poor bastard with an open WAP while the real theif lives right next door.

      Going to the press is a bad idea. The theif is very likely to see the story and will move to dispose of the property.
      • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

        by log0n (18224) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:36PM (#15942815)
        It's most likely Baltimore Police. There was a big expose here about the BCPD forging or failing to take reports, browbeating victims to not press charges... a lot of really heinous stuff. Apparently it was done to try to keep reported crime levels artificillay low to help the mayor get elected to governor. There's been a lot of stink about it in certain news organizations.

        (tired - can't spell)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thedletterman (926787)
        Forget dropping the civil case, persue both.
    • Re:Media (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jamesh (87723) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:35PM (#15942813)
      I'd be calling your insurance company next. They have an interest in getting the stolen goods back too, in that then they don't have to make a claim.

      The whole situation is pretty silly though. You're basically handing the police a solution on a plate. They won't have to do too much detective work to get a result, and even if it doesn't end in a conviction, at least they's be showing you that 'the system works', and on a slow news day they might even get a _positive_ write up in the local media.
    • Re:Media (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:52AM (#15943009)
      I work for a major PD as a Specialist Reserve Officer. My thing is breaking into computers to obtain evidence when the casual attempts fail. After a couple of conversations with a deputy city attorney , it appears that it is extremely difficult to obtain a filing, much less a conviction, unless the suspect is caught in an illegal act and seen doing so by the eyes of several officers. The greatest cases I've seen were never even filed. I've worked with the feds on some cases and we've been extremely careful not to pollute the original hard drives, but our cases don't even get filed because there's an element of doubt in someone's mind, somewhere along the line. We've handed felony cases to the DA that could be called Silver Platter, but they were not filed because they have higher priorities. Their focus is on violent crime, at least where I do this stuff. If you're just an average Joe like me, I think the police don't give a high enough priority on your loss to give you a second thought. I'm sorry for those in your shoes, but I tend to agree with their priorities.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sjf (3790)
        Since when has doing 60 in a 55 zone been "violent crmie" ?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zippthorne (748122)
          You get tickets for 60 in a 55? What're you doing? Looking like a hippie while driving an expensive sportscar trailing a banner saying "Pigs are teh sux?"

          Good gracious man, be polite, turn on your dome light, and don't make any threatening moves. (this is good advice for anyone who is being approached by someone who carries a gun and faces violent offenders regularly)

          It's been my experience that they don't really want to give you the ticket, at least not until they meet you. Most of them just want you to
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dieman (4814)
            Ticketing for just over 5mph is becoming SOP in some cities. Some Minneapolis area freeways recently went from 55->60 speed limits, but troopers and police are pulling people over for far less than they used to. Lots more people are going close to 60 rather than going 65-68ish.

            The program is called HEAT -- Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic.

            http://www.dot.state.mn.us/hottopics/speedlimits/i ndex.html [state.mn.us]
    • This crap is -so- common with local police departments.

      I had a guy break into my house after a) threatening to break into my house and b) stealing what he threatened to steal from my house (along with a ton of valuable electronics).

      Did the police even knock on his door? Nope.

      Sure makes you feel safe :/
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PiratePTG (608376)
      The best idea is to call the DA's office, explain to them that the police department has all of the necessary information, and that they are doing nothing about it. Ask the DA's office to please look into the matter so that "you don't have to take the problem to the media". The DA's office will probably look into the matter, since the DA is an elected position, and probably doesn't want the negative publicity.

      If the DA's office doesn't do anything about it, by all means call the media. Call every media

  • RIAA (Score:5, Funny)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:04PM (#15942549)
    Your best hope is that now that you have the IP you can hack into the laptop and install a BT server with lots of nice pop music and videos. Then report the sharing site to the RIAA and watch them take this sucka down.

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:10PM (#15942562)
    For instance, in this case:
    http://www.laptopical.com/lojack-for-laptop.html [laptopical.com]

    "Proof-positive of LoJack's power comes from such stories as the one out of William Penn University in Iowa. A student there had a college laptop stolen. Absolute Software was promptly notified. And their recovery experts there soon tracked the laptop down to the phone line that the notebook was hooked into the Internet on. The Des Moines Police Department was notified, and officers promptly put down their donuts and coffee and swooped in on the missing PC."

    The lojack program seems to do the exact thing yours does, but then again, perhaps because it is "official", the police may take the information more seriously.
    • I doupt its so much the officialness of the program as the officialness of the investigators. Absolute obviously already has enough connections that they got information from verizon and only had to give the police the address.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
      The lojack program seems to do the exact thing yours does, but then again, perhaps because it is "official", the police may take the information more seriously.

      More likely, they have at least one person on staff who knows how to "speak cop," and thus knows how to get on their side of the thin blue line. So instead of seeing Absolute as a threat to their control, they are perceived as an ally whom the cops may call upon for a favor in the future.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by anticypher (48312)
      LoJack and other professional security companies employ ex-law enforcement personnel for one big reason, to speak "cop", and to work their old contacts inside of police forces. I work with a number of serious security companies who specialise in computer/telecoms fraud cases. They all have a group of ex-cops on staff to make sure when they need to pursue a case once the perp has been identified, things will move along quickly. I've tried, and failed every time, to file cases 'through the front door' with va
  • good luck with that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@@@kc...rr...com> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:11PM (#15942565) Homepage
    I had a laptop and 2 desktops stolen from my van in the parking lot next to the police station in downtown KC. One of my side windows as well as the windows of 3 other vehicles were broken out. The police department couldnt even be bothered to walk downstairs to file a report and told me I would need to phone it in, I called and the detective said I wasnt likely to get it back but he would get back to me. Later that night after I was home my work aim account logged itself online. I got the IP called the police department with the info, was called back the next day and reprimanded for "interfering in police work". Anyway I stopped interfering, 2 years later and I guess they are still busy doing "police work" because I have never heard back from them. I guess I learned my lesson, dont bother. Now when I have to be downtown I just leave the doors unlocked, its alot cheaper than replacing the windows. I've actually managed to make a game out of it, I no longer have to take old computers to the salvage place, I just load them in the van and take them downtown.
  • Explained it wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:13PM (#15942570)
    Think they understood the VBS? Now I know that you didn't directly throw that VB at them, but still.

    Explain that your computers connect to the work network and log in, and you noticed that there was a computer trying to "hack in" from another town. Your security people found that the computer was your own computer, one that had been reported stolen.

    Spin it in a way they'll understand.
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      I'll give you a big amen on that one. Everytime that you try to explain things to a cop/lawyer/other official, the one thing I see most is that because they don't quite understand, and its not in the normal routine of things, it is considered unimportant. Case in point, my car radio was stolen. Immediately, they said I'm not likely to get it back. I asked if they wanted me to bring the car in so they could get finger prints. No amount of trying to explain that the guy who robbed me, didn't break the window,
      • by plover (150551) * on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:08AM (#15943036) Homepage Journal
        Hate to disappoint you, but no cop will bother with fingerprints for a simple auto burglary. It's a simple matter of priorities. There are way too many things for the police to do than track down petty criminals.

        The biggest reason is that even if they did pull good fingerprints from your window, tracked them to a known criminal, got a warrant, entered his place, and found him along with your stereo in his bedroom, the criminal would get an average sentence of a few days to a few weeks, (most likely suspended,) plus probation and possibly reparations.

        But that entire scenario is highly unlikely, from the first assumption to the last. Too many people see smeary fingerprints taken on CSI and assume that every precint has a "Bat Computer" sitting in the back where they can just upload a print and out pops a name and an arrest warrant. And every one of those people expects the same care devoted to catching a car-stereo thief.

        There's just nothing in it for the lesser crimes. No real punishments, just a lot of work for absolutely nothing resembling justice. Someone might take pity on you if you didn't have insurance, but even that's highly unlikely unless the value of the stolen merchandise was high.

        The cops will definitely take it seriously if there's been a violent crime (again, keep in mind the difference between what you'd consider a serious assault and what they'd consider serious.) And even then, the backlog clogging the BCA labs usually runs over a year before forensic evidence is processed! There are simply too many criminals and too many crimes at this point in history.

        • by EnderWigginsXenocide (852478) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @02:34AM (#15943194) Homepage
          YOU:
          Hate to disappoint you, but no cop will bother with fingerprints for a simple auto burglary.

          ME:
          Untrue. Careful with broad all-encompassing statements.

          YOU:
          It's a simple matter of priorities. There are way too many things for the police to do than track down petty criminals.

          ME:
          Correct.

          If officers are sitting on alot of crap calls (no crime commited, just bitchy neighbor complaints about barking dogs or music in the daytime hours, etc.) they will often take the five minutes to print a car about the top of the "doorjamb," around the doorhandle, and in locations likely to be touched in the comission of a crime (say a dashboard if a piece of installed equiptment is stolen, think radio, dvd, sat-nav.) If any prints look very good they will take a lift and file them along with their report of stolen property.

          Sure, your stolen ipod won't get shoved to the front of the live-scan line, it will be bumped to the end of the que by just about any other crime with fingerprint evidence.

          Crimes like theft are often commited by repeat offenders, and thus these criminals will have prints on file. A print left in a "low profile" crime can lead to a routine request for an arrest warrant. Of course this won't lead to a SWAT raid on the perps residence, but next time he/she cheks in with their PO, gets a traffic violation, or somehow draws the attention of the law enforcement community, the cuffs will go on and they'll be jailed right away for violating their terms of release and may see additional time from the new crime.

          This process requires very little effort (no major investment of time or money... lifting a print is dirt cheap next to sequencing DNA for example) and makes for an easy bust down the road.

          Now, when you call in your car that's been broken into you might wait [quite] a few hours to get an officer out to take a report because it is indeed a low priority call [no life in danger, not in progress, and not likely to lead to a quick apprehension even when a quick response is made.]

          If a department has, or at some point in the past had, the funding to train the average patrol officer to lift prints then you may receive this kind of service (smaller towns like El Monte CA [higher crime rate] and Fullerton CA [lower crime rate] both do this, neither being particulary large in population [relative to their neighboring cities in the LA Metro area.])

          It's cheaper to have officers collect "basic evidence" than to have an officer wait on scene for a specalist in evidence collection to clear their currrently pending calls and respond to a crime that's quite low priority. When a city dosen't have, or never has had, the funding to do this then you end up with simple theft being a purely paper crime (where the only response to the crime is a piece of paper[a report] and no other action is taken regarding the crime.)
        • Some punks broke in to my car and tried to steal it. They failed, which says they sucked because it was an old Jeep that was easy to hotwire. They rifled through all the shit I had in it, but decided none of it was worth stealing (they were correct). The police came and took finger prints from likely places. I think they were mine, probably, but they tried anyhow.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CAIMLAS (41445)
        that's because the police aren't there to 'serve and protect' anymore. there is no more officer friendly. they're there to put the body in the bag, write you traffic tickets, and - in general - keep the citizenry under control. that's why things like pot and hookers are illegal and heavily prosecuted; the government wants to maintain its grasp on mind altering substances and physical pleasure (media and pharmacuticals).

        Sounds crazy and 1984, but it makes sense to my tired mind...
  • Start a blog. Link to it from /. (just post a comment). Get worldwide exposure. Post the IP address and whatever information you can find on the user (without resorting to illegal means). Get people interested in your cause, and get your local paper to publish something. It may piss the police off, but they'll actually do something by then, hopefully.

  • The Police seem to be somewhat arbitrary on what they will and won't investigate. A recent anecdote from my part of the world (took place in Kelowna BC, Canada) is interesting: A guy goes to a filling station, pumps $100 in gas, and drives away. The gas station has the guy's face, and his license plates clear as day on security video. They phone the police and get told by the RCMP that they will not follow up this seemingly open and shut case, the reason? The RCMP says it is "too much work" to investigate e

    • by pimpimpim (811140) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:43PM (#15942832)
      A situation like this was once in the newspaper in Holland: pump owners had all the date, but police couldn't be bothered. The newspaper coverage increased the amount of pump-and-run cases a bit (hey, if it's that easy...), but it also made it clear to government and police officials that they had to take this seriously, and I guess they improved since then.

      Makes you sometimes wish you were in a corruptable regime, there you could have Police officers at least help you if you gave them money. You'd have to give more money than the crooks of course, but anyway there you know then why they won't help you (if you offer too little), and that is better then not being able to get anything done with the police due to random reasons.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      The irony here is that, just like robbery or any other crime, if a strong enough negative reinforcement for the crime is enforced, the number of attempts will be drastically cut down. Just enforce the damn law, consistently and regularly, and people would stop committing the crime as often for fear of getting caught!

      This is why rape is not common in our society (at least not as common as it used to be, by far): we have DNA evidence, modern forensics, and (usually) very agressive investigative agents who nip
  • Call the FBI (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe U (443617) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:47PM (#15942675) Homepage Journal
    You could always call the FBI and have them charged for breaking into secured computer systems, being:

    1. The laptop
    2. The server
  • by v1 (525388) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @10:57PM (#15942710) Homepage Journal
    with its built-in camera... mug shot? no we don't need that, we have a printscreen. lets go get him.

    Now when will they put a GPS in these things?
  • Make Some Noise. (Score:5, Informative)

    by themassiah (80330) <scooper@coopster.net> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:02PM (#15942724) Homepage Journal
    First, try and verify that the police department isn't doing anything about it. Talk to a supervisor in a day or two and see where this case is going. Then, if nothing is being done, consult an attorney and ask what your options are. I know that most police forms have complain forms to fill out if you want to start making a stink. Work your way up the ladder, their IS a chain of accountability and if you're persistant and cause enough pain, someone will make the phone call to Verizon or whomever and get the name and address on the account.

    If that fails to produce justice, follow up with the attorney and file civil suit against the police agency. You handed them about 3/4 of the case when you produced an IP address, they should have been willing and capable of filling in the missing paperwork and whatnot.
  • Good luck (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PrimeNumber (136578)
    The only way you will get you laptop back is if the people responsible are caught speeding while wardriving.
    Police departments these days are mainly interested in are catching speeders to meet 'quotas'.
    Sadly, most cops today are assigned the role of 'stealth tax collectors' that generate additional revenue streams for local and city governments.
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

    by dusanv (256645) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:24PM (#15942784)
    I had my car stolen when I was in school. 12 year old Honda Accord. Didn't think anyone would bother to steal the POS so I didn't insure against theft (money saving student). After it got stolen I called the cops and the first thing they asked me was whether the car was insured against theft. Since it wasn't, they wouldn't even take a report! Can you believe that? Anyway, I found the car a couple of days later 5 parking spots away from where I left it. The steering column was busted. There was a pair of size 9 rollerblades in the trunk (thief with size 9 feet?) and six jugs of bleach (???).

    This was in local papers: a woman here in town (Ottawa, ON) had her house repeatedly broken into. After reporting to the cops and complaining that she has to buy a new lock each time they told her to leave the door unlocked!

    • by deft (253558)
      Rollerskates and 6 jugs of bleach???

      Sounds like a body with size 9 feet was disposed of to me. :(
      • by CAIMLAS (41445)
        Exactly what I was thinking. Five days time, a vehicle untraceable to him, and evidence plant - just in case they found the body or some shred tracing to him. Pin it on the guy with the shitty car.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gordonjcp (186804)
      My flatmate had his car stolen - an eight-year-old white Rover 820 (looked a bit like a police car, 'cos they used to use those round here for the plodmobiles). We got a call from the police three days later - it had turned up abandoned across the gates of some playing fields in a less-reputable part of town. The clutch had failed, which was on the way out when it was stolen, and obviously they'd just left it. The usual thing is to torch abandoned stolen cars, but they hadn't done that. However, it had
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In 1989 I bought a one year old car. I was replacing my 6 year old car that I was driving at the time. I had attempted to sell my car in my local newspaper. I had also started a new job at the time and had made friends with one of the security guards upon entry into the building that I was working in. She was my age and I thought she was beautiful.

      One day in the building cafeteria, I saw her sitting by herself eating lunch. I asked if she minded if I joined her. She didn't mind at all. In the conversation s
  • This could be fun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RealityMogul (663835) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @11:41PM (#15942823)
    First off, nice job with the script. Now, take it a few steps further. Let that script connect as it is, but let the server return a status indicator as to whether or not the machine is stolen. If it is - let the script modify IE, Opera, and Firefox configuration settings to use a proxy installed on a server you own. Preferably a proxy that can be set to log EVERYTHING. Just wait for them to log into something with clear text username/password, like most e-mail accounts from major providers use. Shouldn't be much of a leap to get enough info on him/her to pinpoint their street address.
    • by honkycat (249849)
      I'm always naysaying, but...

      I can just imagine a countersuit against you for something (wiretapping, unauthorized use of his services, ??) for doing that. Sort of along the lines of the thief who injures himself while breaking in to a home suing the homeowner for negligence. Monitoring what he does on your machine is probably (?) fine, but I imagine you open yourself up for a whole lot of headaches as soon as you do anything with a sniffed password.

      If you're doing this for a company, run it by legal first
      • I guess my wording could have been a little better. I don't mean that you should use his username/password to actually login, but his username is enough to get an e-mail address, and a quick google search will probably lead to enough info. If that doesn't work, you'll have a good long stream of online activity that will give enough clues.

        For the monitoring part, it's essentially the same as monitoring employee internet access while they're using company provided equipment. As soon as you use his login to
        • by honkycat (249849)
          Makes sense -- you're probably ok if you just monitor what's happening on your own machine. At least, I'd hope so...

          Even if you don't track the guy down, it'd be fun just to monitor the slimeball's activities. And if you get lucky, maybe he'll download some child pr0n. That'd get the authorities involved, I bet. Of course, then you'll never see your laptops again because they'll be "tainted" and subject to civil forfeiture. Aaiyee...
  • Someone broke in my home, stole my laptop, TV and an 80 pound safe. It was painful to see my AIM messagener come up saying someone just logged on under my account. All I could do is just change the passwords.

    Few days latter, it looked like they got my checking account out of my safe and used it to pay the electric bill. Close to 800 bucks. I got the money back from the bank, but the cops did nothing with it.

    People wonder why apathy and cynicism is chronic in our society.
  • If they had any brains, they'd have first taken the laptop to Anchorhead to have its memory erased, and that'd be the end of it.

  • He's running for Governor after all... might be good press to see this resolved !

    http://www.martinomalley.com/content/26/contact-us [martinomalley.com]

  • That cops are friggin useless. Just shoot whomever pisses you off, far more effective.

    Or, tell them you have a new PCMCIA plugin card in it and it is supposed to report nitrogen levels in the atmosphere back to a server as hobby. Only now it's picking up lots of nitrates like the thief is handling lots and lots of bags of the stuff.

    You might get your laptop back full of submachine gun holes, but at least the perp will get what he's due.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The cops won't help you recover a laptop, but when one goes missing from the Veterans Administration it becomes national news. You should have told them it had a ton of personal information about a large number of customers, or something.

    Here's another double standard for you. The cops won't help you get your laptop back, but if you managed to track it down yourself, went to the guy's house, took it back and laid a beating on him, they couldn't arrest you fast enough for that.

    I say get a lawyer and file a c
  • Tort: Conversion (Score:3, Informative)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:07AM (#15943034) Homepage
    If the cops won't help, see the tort of conversion [wikipedia.org]. File a "john doe" civil suit. Once filed, your attorney would have subpoena power -- use it with Verizon to get the name, address, and phone number of the user associated with the IP. Verizon will have an entire department devoted to processing these types of requests -- you'll have no problem except figuring out what their number is. If you represent yourself, you may have to ask the court to issue the subpoena on your behalf. Once you have the identifier, amend your suit to name that party (probably keep the "john does" at least till you're certain you have all the people involved). Also check your states statutes, there may be something specifically related to your situation. The statutes are certainly available online free -- start at your state's homepage (somewhere burried of course).
    • by grolaw (670747) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:32AM (#15943082) Journal
      Conversion is a start. 18 U.S.C. 2510 et seq., the Electronic Communication Privacy
      Act; 18 U.S.C. 1030 et seq., the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as amended
      by the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984,
      specifically including 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5)(B) would be a far better choice for a causes of action.

      You get attorney's fees, compensatory damages and, there is a collateral criminal charge available. Once your attorney has nailed the defendant the U.S Attorney's office will have some oung turk who will come in and pick up a slam dunk for a notch in his/her belt.

      Conversion is a common law action and it is a reasonable cause - but Trover would be a better action as it reaches the cognizable personal property (data) as well as the machine.

      This is not a difficult cause to pursue. I've done it several times myself. My first was in 1993 and last was 2002. This is neither rocket science nor high-dollar litigation.

      Act fast before the thief kills the script.

      OH, don't forget to ask for injunctive relief - like a LIFETIME BAN ON INTERNET ACCESS.

      It won't take very many lifetime bans before the cost of a stolen laptop gets around....

  • "neighboring town" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:14AM (#15943048) Homepage Journal
    That may be part of the problem. The police in the neighboring town get credit for the arrest. Your local police just get paperwork.

    The neighboring town, meanwhile, doesn't have jurisdiction over the theft.

    Aren't organizational boundaries fun?

    You could try reporting a posession-of-stolen-property case at the neighboring town. If you have a lawyer on salary (don't try this by the hour) you could ask about filing a "John Doe" lawsuit for "conversion" and issuing the subpoena yourself. (That's not advice, I'm not a lawyer, all I said was to ask a real attorney).

  • I hate to be a hater, but... you're in Maryland, what'd you expect? Maryland cops are almost as bad as the DC cops in terms of inneptitude and corruption. Between the high violent crime rates in both DC and Maryland, the police haven't got the time or motivation to deal with a seemingly petty offence - in comparision - like a stolen laptop from a company.

    No, it's not right. But it's the way it is. You should fight it, though - but you won't likely get results. Still, trying to get a response is akin to help
  • by Tronster (25566) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @02:18AM (#15943169) Homepage
    My current situation: http://www.tronster.com/missing/ [tronster.com]

    My friend's 3 kids was "kidnapped" yesterday by their father here in Baltimore, their location is unknown.

    After a 4 day custody trial, which ended Friday, he was orded to turn them over at a Police station at 8pm on 8/18/06. He neve showed.

    I've spent the day riding with her to and from multiple Police stations as well as the Towson commissioner's office. Everywhere we go we hear the same thing, "Without a bench warrant our hands are tied."

    Today I learned 2 things:

    1. It's nearly impossible to get a hold of a judge on a Saturday
    2. Commissioner's can be downright cruel and unhelpful

    While working with the Baltimore police, most all have been very friendly (many have agreed with us about Commissioner's!) but none of them are able to do more than write down what we say. We're quickly losing hope; and even if an amber alert goes out... it may be too late if he has left the country. I have almost no faith in the Baltimore legal system and how it interacts with the police is non-existant. (Note: I blame this interaction between the two, not the Police themselves.)

    Regardless, I wanted to tred on the border of being on topic as the Baltimore police and their inability to act on this may cause us to lose 3 children to an unstable man. If any Slashdoter's have 5 seconds, please click on the web-page below I made, and let me know if you see him or the kids.

    With luck and more leg work, we'll get the amber alert up ASAP.

    http://www.tronster.com/missing/ [tronster.com]

  • ThatScript v2.0 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by entendre entendre (977799) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:40AM (#15943291)
    Phoning home is one thing, but even better would be to phone home and then download any little executable that it finds there. These could do a variety of things:
    • Upload any non-trivial IP from the laptop to the server, since that's probably the last chance you have to keep it.
    • Taunt your local police. ("Hi, I'm sending this email from a stolen computer and i just wanted you to know that you're never going to catch me because you're all a bunch of fat lazy slobs. Crime does pay, bitches!")
    • Taunt the theives' local police. ("Wanna buy a laptop? I got three more just like this one, ready to go, super cheap.")
    • Install a key logger, get his credentials. Post things all over the internet with the theif's ID (e.g. his next MySpace diary entry will be "so my friends and I stole some computer gear last week...")
    • Append random obscenities into every email that exits the computer ("P.S. I fucked your mom too.")
    • Random pseudo-malware "attacks" on police station web servers - nothing that would bring the server down, but enough to take the IT department's attention. It is possible that their heads are so far up there asses that nothing can reach their brains, but I think there's a fair chance that their IT depeartment can still get through to them.
    • To be continued...
    Surely there is more to add to that list. Remember - you have plausible deniability. Your computer was stolen by an egomaniac hacker who loves to taunt police and do unspeakable things to sheep.

    However I do recommend against the P2P thing suggested earlier. That might just move your computer from the theif to an evidence locker while the RIAA does their paperwork. That sounds counterproductive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pruss (246395)
      Wouldn't there be a security problem with executing whatever the server hands back, since then if the server is compromised, every machine connected to the server is compromised? Better would be to have each client check for a password before executing what the server hands back, though then one would need to keep track of a password for each of the clients. (I suppose whoever is in charge of each client could keep track of her own password, or one could keep a printed list at a secure location.)

      So, takin
  • by Max Threshold (540114) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:44AM (#15943298)
    Call in a tip to CrimeStoppers. Not only will the cops get to feel like they're playing detective and actually do something about it, but maybe you'll get a reward for it.
  • by SUPAMODEL (601827) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @08:46AM (#15943755)
    A couple of years ago, a laptop (among other items) was stolen from my car. Didn't have any password protection on my user account (nothing good on there) and I had my MSN and ICQ accounts set to autosignin.

    About a week after it was stolen, I came home from University to find that my desktop computer had been signed out of MSN cause someone else had signed in. Turns out someone with my laptop was coming on as me and being annoying to some of my friends. Got a webserver set up that I had access to the logs from, and put on a certain page that no-one else knew about. One of my friends dropped it into the conversation, and bam, laptop user clicks on it.

    I made a couple of sworn statements to the police and took a long time convincing them that I had something useful. Took about 10 weeks for them to act on the information, and unfortunately I was away from home when they did. They traced the IP back to an account registered to some bloke a couple of hours away, and they had him under some suspicion of receiving stolen goods but never caught him with any. So, the police raided and got my laptop (and others) back. They also found a considerable qauntity of drugs, which I guess helps seal a conviction for something.

    The person was aout the 4th or 5th person to handle my laptop within the week, and I believe the police have never nailed the people who originally stole it (over 2 years ago).

    The person actually on MSN that we used to take the bait was this guy's 13 year old nephew. When I got the laptop back it still had all my files on it (although the used a black marker to try to fill in some engraving I had under the battery with my details) and they'd also set up their own user account. This kid had his MSN signin info, all his emails, yada yada yada. Never signed into MSN as him or looked at his stuff, I shoulda. Just reformatted it and started again - never know what shit they had on there.

    So, yes, it can be done. But it takes A LOT of work to convince some low-level police grunt that an eye-pea address has some credibility (I was helped cause I had set my browser to return a really random useragent string, so we pretty much knew it was my laptop).
  • by chargen (90268) <pete@@@petey...org> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @11:35AM (#15944152) Homepage
    Since insurance companies are so good at preventing payouts, why not put all the evidence to them and state that you don't want to file a claim as the laptop is still recoverable, but that the police are unwilling to cooperate and that you'll need to file a claim within x weeks if the situation is unresolved. In a way it's too bad it's not a higher value item which might be cause for more action on each party's part. -Pete
  • by davie (191) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @07:38PM (#15945738) Journal
    We recently discovered a burning pile of personal effects next to the dumpster at the office. The items included a purse, wallet with some ID, personal mail, make-up and work clothing and name badge (from a local restaurant). Naturally, we called the police. The officer arrived, poked around a little bit with his foot, then turned around to get back into his car and leave. Incredulous, we asked what he was doing and why he wasn't collecting what was obviously evidence of some kind of criminal activity and he told us that "the detectives wouldn't like it he brought the material back to the station because it would get the other evidence dirty."
  • Bluff (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DeanFox (729620) * <spam.mynameNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 21, 2006 @08:25AM (#15947707)

    My home was broken into three times, three days in a row. It was neighborhood kids.

    I wasn't getting anywhere with the police. First the cop would take a report then a detective would come out and look around. I could tell by their tone that they weren't going to do anything about it. Not, that is, until the third time. Do you know what changed their mind?

    While the detectives were there trying to make it look like they were doing something I faked a call to work and pretended to leave a message that I wasn't coming in the next day. Then I faked a call to a friend asking if I could borrow his "weapon" and that I needed it that night. I turned to the cops and said, they've come in three times, three days in a row, and they're coming back. It's my right and I'm going to protect my property.

    On their way out they were visibly upset. They were convinced there was going to be a blood bath the next day. I got a call 4 hours later that they caught and arrested the boys responsible. 4 hours. And that was after they were already booked and in custody. The arrests had to have been at least and hour or two earlier.

    The detective kept telling me I could go to work after all, blah, blah. It really was the thought of me hiding in ambush that got these police to do their job. It took all but 2-3 hours for them to find and arrest these boys. It took me lying and convincing them I was going to shoot the next person who walked through my door to get them to do it.

    This is one of those bluffs that probably only works once in a lifetime but it worked.

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