SCMPD policy questioned after iPhone is stolen from area prom - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Stolen iPhone at prom raises questions over SCMPD stolen phone policy

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Morgan Stewart Morgan Stewart
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

A stolen iPhone turned prom night into a nightmare for a Savannah teen and her family.
The case now has the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department clearing the air on their own policy for responding to stolen cell phones complaints.

Phone apps like Find My iPhone may be changing the landscape of crimefighting. A few years ago, a stolen phone was pretty much considered a goner. Now, folks can track it with an app and pick up an exact location for where the stolen iPhone or smart phone is.

However, when this family called police, they got an unexpected answer.

"My mom said can we file a report. They said, 'No, we don't do phone cases,'" Morgan Stewart told WTOC.

Saturday night, 17-year-old high school senior Morgan Stewart was at the Jepson Center in Telfair Square in downtown Savannah for senior prom.

"I set my iPhone down by the fruit punch bowl, went and danced for five minutes, came back and my phone was gone," she said. "So I asked the dj to make an announcement if anyone picked it up."

Nobody fessed up, so she used the Find My iPhone app on a friend's phone to find her iPhone and at 9:40 p.m., there it was leaving the Jepson Center.

"It wasn't a student because the prom was a lock-in. So, someone was moving with my phone," Stewart said.

By the time prom was over, her phone was clearly tracked to a home on 61st and Montgomery streets. 

"We saw it in the house. You can zoom in that much where you can see it in the house," she said.

So, her family called 911. They thought an officer was sent, but 20 minutes later dispatch called back.

"They wouldn't do anything," Amy Stewart, Morgan's mother, told WTOC.

Stewart says the next five minutes were more aggravating than the stolen phone itself. 

"She said 'maam, we are not in the habit of recovering stolen property,' and I said, 'so if a neighbor sees someone steal a tv out of my house, follows that person and tells you the address and is a witness, you won't go recover my television?' She said 'No maam. We wouldn't,'" Stewart said.

"I know where my phone is, but they won't go and get it," Morgan said.

"That's not right. Police are here to serve and protect and they are not doing that, so we called you," Stewart said.

WTOC went straight to Chief Willie Lovett, who says it appears policy was not followed.

"Not at all. We are actually in the process of investigating and seeing exactly what happened and why a report was not taken," Chief Lovett said.

The chief does stress only confirmed stolen cell phones with information to help an investigation and take a report on will be taken, not cases where someone thinks think it may be stolen. In the past, he says people would file a police report for possibly lost and missing phones to file for insurance claims, claiming they were stolen, which would cause issues and unnecessary paperwork. 
 
"Lost or mislaid phones, we will not take reports because you can imagine what we go through when someone drops a phone or loses it then call the police. So, we are not going to do that," Chief Lovett said. "But, anytime a phone is stolen we will take a report."

"It was theft and I always thought the police handled that. I was disturbed to find out they didn't or refused to," Amy Stewart said.

"It's just scary," Morgan Stewart said.

The senior, who is applying to colleges for fall, said valuable information and passwords were on her phone, which has been disconnected. She has a new phone now.

The police department does handle stolen cell phones and has already addressed the miscommunication and proper protocol with the dispatcher and officer who handled the call.

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