New York takes cues from T.O. by using the Interwebs to retrieve stolen stuff

New York takes cues from T.O. by using the Interwebs to retrieve stolen stuff

This Toronto woman used social media to get her bike back. Yesterday, an Ottawa man followed suit (Image: screen grab from The Wall Street Journal 

Ever since a Toronto woman arranged a sting to get her bike back in the summer of 2009—a feel-good story that made it all the way onto the pages of the Wall Street Journal—we’ve kept an eye out for similar stories of people using social media (and a little moxie) to reclaim their things. Case in point: last night the local Twitterverse exploded when Sean Power, an Ottawa-based consultant, used a piece of software called Prey, Twitter and the kindness of strangers to track and recover his stolen laptop, which had been thieved on a recent visit to New York.

The Next Web has the story:

Despite being hundreds of kilometres away on a trip to Canada, Sean was able to get his laptop back.

Two of Sean’s Twitter followers and a “Girl in the Purple Sarong” went to the bar to stake it out while waiting for police to arrive. As it would turn out, they weren’t coming—they required Sean to file a report in person before they would do anything.

The trio went undercover and made friends with the bar’s staff and Sean was eventually able to call a second staff member who had been seen taking the laptop with him as he left. He was able to get the original thief to return the laptop via Sean’s Twitter friends at the bar.

The laptop was defaced and painted by the thieves, but all in all, this is a great ending for Sean, some easy marketing for Prey, and a lesson: don’t steal laptops unless you want to get caught!

The truly finicky critics might point out that New York has a long history of this kind of thing (read Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody for a 2006 account, or check out this interview for a brief recap), and that Toronto hasn’t really rubbed off on the Big Apple at all. To them we say: stop killing our buzz. New York already beat us once this week. Let Toronto have this.

Sean Power remotely figures out who and where his laptop’s thief is [The Next Web]
Man tracks stolen laptop hundreds of miles away, calls thief [Storify]
Sean Power’s Laptop and the Girl in the Purple Sarong (Day 4 in NYC) [NicholasReese.com]