A phone that enabled a quadriplegic man with cerebral palsy to speak was stolen from his wheelchair by a teenager, he said.
William Washington, 38, is unable to walk, use his hands or talk, and he could only watch as the phone was taken right off the tray of his wheelchair in the lobby of his Staten Island apartment building Nov. 8.
His assistant at Staten Island's Hungerford School, where Washington works with children facing similar hurdles, said the theft was infuriating.
"How could someone prey on a person in a wheelchair? It's really disheartening," Robert Smith said.
While the thief made off with the phone, it didn't stop Washington from getting a hold of police. Unable to call 911, Washington drafted an email to the NYPD. After looking at surveillance video, police made an arrest.
The 18-year-old alleged thief no longer had Washington's phone, but Washington said that was OK.
While his phone was stolen, he said he realized he had not lost his voice. And thanks to his friends, a new iPhone is on the way.
By Jonathan Dienst and Shimon Prokupecz, NBCNewYork.com
A 40 percent jump in theft of Apple products is the main reason why crime rates in New York City have not declined this year, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly writes in a speech set to be delivered later Tuesday.
"Overall crime is up 4 percent. In the absence of the Apple thefts, we would be experiencing a decline," Kelly wrote.
Kelly said there were 11,447 thefts of Apple products so far in 2012, an increase of 3,280 over the same period last year.
Automatic shut off technology when a phone is stolen making it unusable and tracking systems like the “find my iphone” application can help reduce this growing crime problem and aide police in finding thieves, Kelly said.
Additional undercover officers will be soon be assigned to patrol the subways where some of the robberies are taking place.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is expected to announce 150 additional detectives will join the gang unit. "We’ll focus those resources not on large, established gangs such as the Bloods and Crips, but on the looser associations of younger men who identify themselves by the block they live on, or on which side of a housing development they reside," Kelly wrote in a speech set to be delivered to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference in San Diego.
NYPD Transit and Housing Bureau officers will also assist in increasing patrols to try to keep local street crews in check. Detectives will also increase their monitoring of social media where crew members sometimes boast of the shootings or robberies they committed or plan to commit, Kelly said.
He resolved to get his bike back, but first, he would start growing out his beard to look tougher and older, he told Digital Trends.
He would contact the thief, posing as a prospective buyer. He would use the iPhone Burner app so the alleged thief would think he was calling from Seattle and not Portland, where the bike was stolen.
The two would meet – in Seattle’s upscale University Village mall -- and as Gillum stalled the alleged thief by asking questions, his friends would call the police. He would wear running shoes, thick Carhartt pants and a sweatshirt to look bigger.
The police would arrive, the bad guy would get arrested and Gillum would get his bike back.
That’s what happened on Saturday, pretty much, plus a very slow bike chase and a surprisingly civil confrontation between thieved and (alleged) thief that could have been inspired by Reno 911!
“I would like you to apologize,” Gillum says in the video.
“For what?” the alleged thief asks.
“For stealing my bicycle.”
The alleged thief, Craig Ackerman, 22, does not apologize. Later he claims he bought the bike from Craigslist, knowing it was stolen.
“It’s not illegal to buy stolen stuff. I looked it up, dude,” Ackerman tells Gillum.
“Well you’re in possession of stolen property and you’re going to jail,” Gillum shoots back.
“You don’t go to jail for that! You got it back, dude.”
“Dude, you go to jail.”
“For stealing my bike.”
“I didn’t steal it!”
“You stole it.”
And so on, until the police arrive, the alleged thief is apprehended and the thank-you credits role.
Postscript, not available in the video: Ackerman was booked Saturday on suspicion of felony trafficking of stolen property and released Monday evening. No charges have been filed -- the case has not yet been referred to the King County Prosecutor's Office, according to spokesman Dan Donohoe.
Brian Hester was taking a smoke break on Barclay Street when he witnessed a man steal an iPhone straight out of a woman's hands Thursday.
Hester, a real estate broker and avid photographer, wasn't going to just stand by and do nothing, so he gave chase.
"All I was thinking was, 'Catch this guy,'" Hester said Friday.
Joined by other New Yorkers, Hester and the band of strangers caught up to the alleged thief on Broadway. They held him on the ground and Hester began taking video with his camera.
As they waited for police, the alleged thief decided to make a run for it, but Hester wasn't about to let him get away. He chased the man a second time and tackled the alleged crook right in the middle of Broadway.
Police came and arrested the man and the band of good Samaritans returned the iPhone to its owner.
Throughout the ordeal Hester continued to shoot video with his camera. He hopes that the video he took will serve as a warning to potential thieves.
"I wanted to put the video out there to show anybody else who's thinking of coming to New York and snatching somebody's iPhone that you're not going to get away with that," said Hester.
Despite all the reporting on that iPhone ring tone shut that down a New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, nagging questions remained.
Why did it take the phone's owner so long to silence the offending marimba? It seemed especially unlikely behavior coming from a concertgoer sitting in an expensive front-row seat. Was he a boor? Was he hard of hearing?
A New York Times reporter got to the bottom of it by securing an interview with the man identified only as "Patron X." You can read it here.
It turned out that the cellphone owner did not realize it was his phone making the sound to begin with because he had turned off the iPhone ringer, the Times reported. Patron X says he swapped his Blackberry for the iPhone just a day earlier and didn't realize that the alarm was set and would sound even if the ringer was silenced for incoming calls.
Patron X was mortified by the idea that he disrupted the performance, according to the Times. He said that he had been irritated many times in the past by disruptions during performances--coughing, inappropriate applause, and ringing cell phones.
"Then God, there was I. Holy smokes," he told the paper. "It's horrible. Horrible."
If there is a silver lining, it is that Patron X's experience offers a valuable lesson that may benefit other iPhone-wielding concertgoers and conductors: Just turning off the ringer does not ensure that the device will remain silent.