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January 3, 2013

A Global Apple Crime Wave?

WASHINGTON — The BBC reports that armed robbers broke into a central Paris Apple store on New Year's Eve and made off with more than $1,318,500 million worth of merchandise. This kind of large-scale Apple heist appears to be fairly common these days.

In November, thieves made off with $1.5 million worth of iPad minis from a warehouse at New York's Kennedy airport, where they had just been shipped from China. (Incidentally, it was the same warehouse as the 1978 heist depicted in the movie "Goodfellas," according to the New York Post.) More than $162,530 worth of iPhones were stolen from a London O2 store in September. In a not-as-slick operation, a thief in Temecula, Calif., used a BMW as a battering ram to break into an Apple store, stealing a bunch of iPhone 4s . . . one week before the iPhone 5 came out.

But of course, the vast majority of Apple-related crime isn't in high-profile heists, it's ordinary street thefts. Thefts of Apple products in New York City, which rose by 3,890 this year, singlehandedly drove up the city's crime stats this year, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

The resale value on a stolen iPhone is apparently pretty good. During a bust in 2011, the NYPD found merchants selling stolen iPhone 4s for up to $200 — which is actually more than what WalMart now charges for a new iPhone 5. Police have actually found that crime rates drop in the weeks before a new high-profile Apple product is released as thieves await the new model.

Between the thefts and China's much-publicized fake Apple stores it seems there's quite a thriving undergound economy running parallel to the world's most valuable company.

Keating is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

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