Muscat: It was a classic case of technology extending its long arm to good use. Following a theft in his electronics shop, an intelligent and tech-savvy shop-owner and his friends tracked down the accused with the help of social networking apps, in Muscat last week. The thieves had decamped with valuables worth RO2,000 from his electronics shop.
Shortly after noticing the theft, the shopkeeper exchanged messages —with the help of International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of the stolen cell phones— with friends using WhatsApp Messenger all over the Sultanate. WhatsApp Messenger is a cross-platform cellphone messaging application which allows the user to send messages
free of cost.
"It is for the first time in the Sultanate that a Messenger service and IMEI number have been used for tracking down thieves," shop-owner Afsal Irikkur told Times of Oman.
According to Afsal, the thieves entered the shop at around 3am after breaking open the glass panes of one of the sections and decamped with cell phones and an iPAd. From the other section, they took away two cartons of cigarettes worth RO850.
"When we came to know about the theft, we informed the police. The forensic department collected evidence from the spot and the CID began the probe. But in the meantime, we retrieved the IMEI numbers of the stolen cell phones from our database and sent message to all our friends who own shops in Oman, requesting them to alert us if anyone brings them for sale. It helped us,""said Afsal, who was confident that they would be able to nab the culprits.
"Within two days of the theft, the thief, a national, approached a shop to sell one of the stolen cell phones in Hail. As the shop-owner was aware of the theft through the message sent by us, he texted me about the thief's arrival at the shop and requested him to wait for a few minutes to complete transaction.
"After receiving his text message, I contacted the police. They rushed to the shop and after confirming the identity of the thief and his accomplice, they arrested them," Afsal added.
As Afsal had worked in the distribution network of cell phones and electronic items here for a long time, the connections he had with them helped him.
"My colleagues, Saneesh and Thomas stayed till late in the night the day after the theft to send messages and for uploading the details on Facebook and for sending emails. It helped us," Afsal added.
Two out of the three suspects are under the police custody while the hunt is on for the third one who helped them after the burglary.
"A majority of the stolen goods have been recovered from the thieves. The police have assured me that I will get back all the items soon," Afsal said, while advising shop owners to keep the IMEI numbers of cell phones kept for sale at their shops as it may help them in keeping track of the phones.