Bangalore Cops Recovered My Lost Cellphone!

Yes! That’s true – sounds like a miracle – who would have thought the cops, with bigger thieves to nab, would go after a simple cellphone.

Summary: Dropped the phone in my car when the mechanic came to take it for repair, one of his boys found and kept it. I filed a police complaint, they traced it using the IMEI number about 3 weeks later.

The super long story – read at your own risk – don’t blame me for it being long 😛

A bit of history – How I lost the phone

So it’s a year old Nokia 6233. I had called my mechanic to come start my car (it was refusing to crank even!). He came in the evening around 7.45pm on 19th April 2009. I was wearing a tee and pajamas. Put the car keys in one pocket, the mobile in the other.

My wife asked me, “Why do you need the phone, you are just going downstairs”.

Me, “Yeah, um, I don’t know…just like that”

She made a face; I went down to where the mechanic was waiting near the car.

We spent some time trying to start it up, I sat in the driver’s seat to crank it, got up, sat again, etc. <— this was perhaps when the phone popped out of the loose pocket onto the car seat or between the seat and the door.

The car finally started with a spare battery the mechanic had brought along, and they took it away for other repairs around 8pm.

My brother-in-law called on our land line from Canada at around 10.30pm and asked why we were not answering the mobile, we ignored it saying we did not get any call. Still blissfully unaware its missing!

Realization Dawns

I have a habit of keeping the alarm on my phone when going to sleep – so around 12.30am I started looking for the phone. Not at the 6 so-called ‘regular’ places. Then I called the phone from my wife’s phone, it was ringing – but I could not hear the ringtone – shock! No reason for the phone to be on silent – I’m quite particular about switching to a non-vibrating loud profile when at home. But still assuming that it is on silent, we kept it ringing and started searching the house…in vain. My wife asked me to go downstairs and check near where the car was, but it wasn’t there either.

It was 1.30am by then, and the phone kept ringing – so I assumed it was in the car and no one found it. I knew the mechanic would have just gone to the garage, parked the car and gone home. If the phone was ringing, then surely he had not found it. I was a bit relaxed. he is smart enough to have switched it off sooner.

Taking Action!

Next morning 20th April 2009, I got up at 7am and called the phone – switched off!

My mind started thinking of all sorts of possibilities – “Damn! Was the battery so low? Did it fall off from the car when the mechanic got off and a dog peed on it? Why is it off??? The garage doesn’t open till 9.30am or so, who would come by 7?”

So I went to the garage by 7.30 and searched all around the car. I had taken my wife’s phone with me, used it to call the mechanic by taking the number on the board and told him about the missing phone. He said he would send someone to open the car.

Me and the mechanic’s assistant searched the car thoroughly – but could not find the phone at all – we even saw in the places where it could not possibly reach just by falling.

Then I went back home, got dressed to go to work. Headed out and went to Airtel first – to block my sim and get a fresh one.

They charged me 75 bucks, no police report needed.

Filing a Complaint

The next day, 21st April 2009, I went to the Airport Road Police Station to file a complaint. The lady constable dictated the base format out – while I wrote on plain paper. I gave the details of the phone, how it was lost, the name and location of the garage, etc. I had no proof, but was dead sure I lost the phone in the car.

While writing the complaint, I asked her what they do with these complaints – she very casually told me, “nothing, if someone returns it to us, we’ll call you and hand it over”

I took a xerox copy of my complaint and got it ‘acknowledged’ (stamped and signed).

The Useless Wait

Based on the interaction at the station, I had no hopes – I even wrote in my complaint that I am filing it to protect myself against misuse of the phone.

Regardless of what the cops were going to do, I knew what I had to do – coax the mechanic to take some action. So I called him up and told him that I filed a complaint, and that they asked me for all the details and I had to tell them about the car and the garage, etc. I asked him to check with all his employees about the phone. For the next 2-3 weeks, I kept telling him to check and find out – he would say he did , but no one had it. I kept telling him that I am hoping the cops are able to find it – each time giving him a chance to return it without any issues.

The Stand-in Phone and The Search for a New Phone

My boss lent me his old phone – hold your breath… a Blackberry 7100t. Oh man what a piece of crap! What a usability nightmare that scroll-wheel was! I  had to also do some software circus to get the Blackberry Desktop Manager to load my phonebook entries – exported from my wife’s phone to excel to a new Outlok profle’s address book to Blackberry. Crazy!

I was even more convinced my next phone has to be a Nokia, NOT Crapberry!

In the meanwhile I narrowed down to the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic as my next phone after a lot of consideration on whether to go for Series 40 or Series 60. In Series 60 I was considering the Nokia E51 – double the price but super value for money 3G and WiFi phone. (6233 is also 3G, but no WiFi)

How I found it

On May 6th 2009, at about 10.30pm my mechanic called me up and asked me to describe the phone. Then told me not to take it in the wrong sense, but one of his workers did in fact find the phone and then went missing for many days – so he, i.e. the mechanic himself was unaware of this.

Now the twist, he told me that the boy who found it gave it to his father who has given it at the police station – they did not know that the mechanic was looking for a lost phone. Since the boy who found it did not come to work for many days, he himself did not know whose phone it was – so they gave it to the cops. The cops have called them and me the next morning to give me the phone.

At the Police Station

So the next morning, I went to the police station and we waited for the specific officer who was handling the case to turn up. When he came, he told me that they ‘traced’ the phone, showed me a printed page containing the phone number of a sim, my phone’s IMEI number, the numbers that were called using that other sim in my phone and the call time stamps.

He said that they traced the origin of the calls to the area where the mechanic’s garage is and then spent a good amount of time the previous day calling the source number. When they got through, they asked for the phone to be returned to the station.

The one who found it was a 7 or 8 yrs old boy, who was given the duty of removing car covers every morning, he probably reached the car an hour before me and found the phone. His elder brother also worked at the garage, in fact was the one who accompanied the mechanic when they came to take the car.  His elder brother used the phone with a different sim card.

So obviously, these folks did not really give it up out of goodwil (as they tried to tell me the previous night)l, they were asked by the cops to do so. AND, they went to some local politician for help, he directed them to the HAL police station as he had some contacts there. The phone was accepted there but then sent to the Airport Police station as it falls in that jurisdiction.

What Now?

The cops told me that I can choose to file a complaint against the young boy – he will be asked to report to juvenile court. I refused as it would probably put him in the company of crooks and/or make his poor father (a school-bus driver) suffer re-paying loans taken for court fees and fines. I wanted to however have some punishment to the boy’s elder brother as he is the one who should’ve corrected him and returned the phone to the mechanic. Unless, of course if the mechanic himself was involved and was playing innocent in all this. But no proof against either – they smartly put the boy in front knowing that he would escape punishment. Even if I did file a complaint, the politician friend would help him out – or threaten me to withdraw it. Totally not worth for a 8000 rupee phone.

Oh wait! There’s more…

So I got the phone back the next day. Immediately opened the memory card slot and noticed that my 1GB memory card was missing. Also the battery of the phone was a really badly battered one. No way was that original! So I told the cop to recover the battery and memory card – he asked me to handle that directly with the ‘culprits’ – threaten them about filing a complaint. I didn’t insist, they really do have more important things to do, I hoped.

The crappy battery would get charged in 15 minutes and last for 2 hours. Had to get a new one for 720 bucks. I am using the 128mb memory card that came with the phone for now. The old one had tons of software, including email and banking apps – so I had to change all my passwords. It also had my daughter’s pictures, that’s what I care most about.

The ‘culprit’ (elder brother told me he did not take the battery and blamed the cops. He has promised to find me the memory card – I’m still pursuing him. No hopes. Lets see.

My Phonebook

That ‘foo’ also wiped out my phonebook – and my latest phone backup using Nokia Content Copier was from October 08!

When I connected the recovered phone back to my PC, and opened the PC Suite, it showed me my old phonebook for a flash of a second and then the new entries. I was like – damn! I knew it stores a local copy somewhere, couldn’t find it anywhere – shouldn’t have connected the phone and searched more for it. I sync my Outlook calendar with it 2-3 times a week, it probably keeps a cache of the phonebook at the time too.

Well, after some probing, I did find a SQL Lite database called <imei number>.db which has the contacts and sms messages. The file was a month old, 22nd March – but would do the job. So I went off downloading various SQL Lite tools – and found one that lets you write a query and save the result to CSV. WOW!

More software circus!

So now I do have a month old phonebook in excel that I have to clean up, bring to a format that the PC Suite can import and  should be ready to rock’n’roll! Of course, in the meanwhile I am adding entries to my current phonebook, so there is really no pristine copy left – its going to be a nightmare and a one-shot job to merge all the latest entries.

The Wonder

In all this, the cop did not ask me for a single rupee! Contrary to popular opinion – even when I offered,  he told me that this is police duty and it’s my wish to give something, no compulsion. WOW! 🙂

Of course, the mobile shop dealer told me it costs 2 grand to trace the phone from the IMEI number – obviously he had his sales targets in mind. I did go back to him to buy the battery and tell him about this case.

Finally

So here I am, lost my phonebook, 1gig memory card, got a new battery, realized that Blackberry sucks more than I thought and spared the guilty. Still trying to get my memory card back.

But one thing positive came out of all this – a renewed confidence in the cops! 🙂 *salute*

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