If you have the digital know-how there is a good chance you can – but it's unlikely that the police can do anything about it.
North Fitzroy resident "Bianca" returned home from work on Wednesday to an unpleasant surprise: her front door had been kicked in and family heirlooms and jewellery, DVDs, electronics, a mini-disc containing a decade of her partner's professional work archives and her iPad were missing.
Bianca immediately called the police to report the burglary, and in the time before they arrived she used her iPhone to access the Find My iPad app. She tracked the device to a house in Preston.
Initially buoyed by her digital discovery, Bianca's hopes of retrieving her property were dealt a blow when police told her there was little they could do since evidence obtained by tracking devices was not considered strong enough to obtain a warrant.
"The police said they would send someone around to the address if they had time, but they said all they could really do was knock on the door and ask if there was a stolen iPad inside," she said. "To be fair, the policeman I spoke with seemed fairly frustrated by the lack of power to search the property, but essentially the message was there is nothing they can do."
Fairfax Media contacted Victoria Police for comment but a spokesman was initially unable to provide any clarification of the powers available to police in using digital tracking devices to recover stolen goods.
In a recent spate of interstate cases involving the use of Find My iPhone and Find My iPad apps to track stolen devices, police have successfully recovered stolen goods.
A Canberra man who tracked his allegedly stolen iPad to a townhouse using the Find My iPad service had a legitimate reason for going to the property, a court heard in August.
The man's iPad was allegedly taken from a construction site and when he passed the details onto police, they searched the townhouse and found the device and a collection of items that were allegedly stolen.
A claim by the lawyer for the man who lived at the house – that the victim was committing "electronic trespass" when he used the app – was dismissed.
In Queensland, detectives have arrested suspected thieves on several occasions by using apps such as Find My iPhone to track their location before obtaining search warrants.
Most recently such an app was used to help police track a stolen iPod from Auckland Airport to a house in Forest Lake.
Frustrated by Victoria Police's seeming inability to follow the lead to the Preston residence, Bianca wrote – and delivered – a note to the suspected burglar, pleading for the return of her goods.
"I don't really want to delve into that world but I want my stuff back," she said. "Most of it is irreplaceable, including the jewellery, which has been in my family for a long time.
"So I said in the note that I believe you have some stuff of mine, that you can keep most of the stuff but there are items I desperately want back. I wrote that I would give the person more money for the items than what they would get just hocking it and that I wouldn't have the police involved if they called my mobile. I left the letter in the letterbox but, not suprisingly, I haven't heard back.
"I'm not holding high hopes but I will check Cash Converters in the next couple of weeks to see if anything turns up."
Fairfax Media contacted Victoria Police for comment but is yet to receive a full reply.
* Bianca did not wish to be identified in the article but is known to Fairfax Media.
theage.com.au 4 Oct 2013