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App traces stolen iPhone, but police can't go inside to retrieve it

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MURFREESBORO, TN (WSMV) -

Apple offers an app to help iPhone users locate their phone if it ever goes missing or is stolen, but when one Murfreesboro college student used it - and even traced the phone's location - police couldn't help.

Just think about it: all your photos, all your video, all your personal contacts and text messages are in the hands of a stranger. It happened to Middle Tennessee State University student Kelsi Carter.

"It's not like stealing a pack of bubble gum or something. It's a big deal," Carter said.

Fearing this might happen to her one day, Carter had previously downloaded the Find iPhone app, which uses satellites to track your iPhone in the case it ever goes missing.

Police have successfully used the app all over the country to track stolen phones, but the Channel 4 I-Team found there's a catch.

Even though Carter knew exactly where her phone was, police couldn't get it.

"If the police don't back it up, and there's no way to get your phone when you find it, then it's only good if you lost your phone in your bedroom," Carter said.

In Carter's case, the software showed her stolen phone was in the middle of an apartment building not far from MTSU's campus.

After filing a theft report, Carter went to the complex and called Murfreesboro police. Then, when an officer arrived, she told him how the app showed the phone was inside.

"[The officer] told me, 'I'm sorry, you've waited so long. There's nothing I can do to help you,'" Carter said.

"In high density, it becomes more hard for us," said Murfreesboro police spokesman Sgt. Kyle Evans.

Evans says the problem is that the phone is in a complex. Even if the app indicates where in the building the phone is, there are still lots of apartments.

"We can narrow it down to a building but not necessarily the apartment it's in. That's not enough for a search warrant, for example, and not enough to spend an exorbitant amount of time knocking on doors," he said.

Evans says they're hoping surveillance video from the store where Carter's phone was stolen will show a suspect. And if they can identify that the thief does, in fact, live at the apartment complex, they can get a warrant.

In the meantime, all Carter can do is know where her phone is yet not get it back.

The Channel 4 I-Team reached out to Apple for comment about the abilities of the app, but they did not return our call.

That app does allow the owner to lock the phone so a thief can't access your personal information. But the user must activate that feature.

If the thief gets caught, we'll let you know.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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