Hugo Scheckter returned to his George Washington University residence hall late Saturday. His unlocked room had been ransacked. His iPad, laptop and emergency stash of cash were missing.
Scheckter, 20, a sophomore from England, soon filed a police report. He complained to friends on Facebook and Twitter. Then he logged onto MobileMe, an Apple program he had installed on his iPad that tracks the device.
At first it didn’t work, probably because the iPad was powered down. But then on Sunday night, it flipped on. Scheckter hit “track” and, he said, instantly found himself peering at a Google map showing a house in Landover where his iPad was mysteriously moving from room to room.
Scheckter posted a photo of the house from Google Earth on his Facebook page and told his Twitter followers: “Currently tracking my iPad. It’s in Maryland.”
A few of his friends, he said, were “gung-ho” about storming the stranger’s house and taking back the iPad themselves. But Scheckter said it was difficult enough to call his mother in Britain to explain that he was robbed. He didn’t want to call her from a hospital bed because of a “Rambo-style” operation gone wrong.
At first “the police were skeptical when I told them exactly where my iPad was — the address, the room in the house,” said Scheckter, a sports management major.
But on Monday, a D.C. police officer ventured to the house in Prince George’s County, and a few hours later, Scheckter tweeted: “Just picked up my iPad from the station!! Pretty awesome!”
Scheckter said police told him that they had apprehended a man at the house who said he had purchased the iPad from someone else and provided a detailed description. Scheckter said police are looking for that person.
D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump confirmed that the department is investigating the case, along with GWU campus police, but said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
College students are often easy targets for criminals looking to snatch the latest laptops from unattended coffee-shop tables or techy gadgets from unlocked dorm rooms.
At GWU, in the heart of Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, there have been 53 reports of stolen electronics since January. About 20 of those reports involved stolen laptops. Officials have warned students not to leave their valuable electronics unattended and to watch for “tailgaters,” who slip into secured buildings behind groups of students.
Scheckter admits that he had left his dorm room unlocked all day Saturday, something he often does so a friend can easily borrow his PlayStation. He kept his laptop in a locked drawer but he said the intruder simply ripped the door off.
To send a “public message to the thief,” Scheckter posed for a new Facebook profile photo in which he triumphantly held up his recovered iPad.