iGot My iPhone Back

Next time you steal someone’s iPhone, don’t rename it “Malik’s iPhone”

Tucked off Salt Springs Road, the Elmcrest Children’s Center aspires to “protect the promise of childhood.” Cheery cottages and playgrounds provide the setting for therapeutic services to at-risk children and families.

Surely, much good happens at Elmcrest, whose population includes law-abiding children, pre-schoolers among them, who have done nothing to deserve their fates.

But those aren’t the kids I am writing about this week. This week I am writing about Malik, 14, in the hope that he will read this article and be inspired toward a more virtuous path. To help with that, I’ve been posting ennobling messages such as “Crime doesn’t pay” on Malik’s Facebook page, which he installed on my iPhone after he stole it last week.

A few tips, Malik: Next time you steal someone’s iPhone, don’t rename it “Malik’s iPhone.” Don’t use the phone to call your mom. And avoid pissing off newspaper columnists. We tend to be unscrupulous ourselves. Most of us would throw our own mothers under the bus for a good story.

Speaking of the bus, that was apparently the conveyance of choice for Malik last week after he went AWOL from Elmcrest. I know this because he replaced my iPhotos with a Centro bus schedule. I’m guessing he took Centro to the Fayetteville YMCA Wednesday, Oct.15.

I still don’t know how Malik pinched my phone there. I checked in at the front desk, went through the security door, placed my gym bag on a nearby bench and immediately rummaged through it for my phone. When I couldn’t find it, I briefly left the bag, and did a quick check of the car. No luck. I rechecked the bag and car again and again. Nothing.

Malik had an accomplice — me. Stupidly, I hadn’t switched on Find My iPhone because I hadn’t realized how easy it is to activate. Nor was there a security code on the phone. That allowed Malik to literally make the phone his, but that was also his mistake.

This past Friday, I logged into iCloud to discover that “Jeff Kramer’s iPhone” had been retitled “Malik’s iPhone.” My wife, Leigh, really cracked the case. Twice she checked our AT&T account for suspicious activity. The second time, she noticed a call had been made after the phone went missing. I called the number and left a message. Surprisingly, I got a call back from a man who identified himself as the boyfriend of Malik’s mom. He disclosed that Malik had gone AWOL from Elmcrest and come home Wednesday night with a suspicious phone. The couple had called police. By early Thursday morning, Malik was back at Elmcrest, along with my phone — not that anyone told me.

Police did not search Malik or, if they did, they missed or ignored the stolen phone.

Director Ellie Daiga explained that Elmcrest is not a detention facility and that kids who AWOL — it’s a verb there — are not guilty of a crime and cannot be frisked by staff. She later amended that, saying pockets are turned out and shoes are inspected.

“They still have rights, and among these rights is a right to privacy. This does leave us open to a degree of risk, but that is why we do not admit children who are violent, have extensive criminal backgrounds, or who chronically AWOL.”

She praised Malik for eventually surrendering the phone Friday, although “it took some coaxing.”  Perhaps he was told about the video evidence at the Y of him taking it.

No wonder Fox News stays in business.

Someday, the policy will change. Elmcresters who “AWOL” — especially those suspected of a crime — will have as much “right to privacy” as you and I do going through airport security. Preferably this will happen before some innocent’s “promise of childhood” is ended by a bullet.

Meanwhile, my attempts to reach Malik went nowhere. He is said to have lost his privileges and to be working on a “letter of apology” to me and finding a way to reimburse me for my “LifeProof” – but not Malik-proof – case. I’m just glad to have my phone back with the added bonus of being able to impersonate Malik on Facebook. Here’s “his” latest post:

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Email Jeff Kramer at [email protected]

Poetic Injustice: After parking at the Inner Harbor to do an interview for this column on his newly recovered iPhone, guess who started driving to the New Times before he hung up and got a cell phone ticket?


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