But remember that feeling of thinking you were smarter than every adult out there? And sure, there were minor things you got away with. But most of the time, you were caught. Admit it. For the past two days, I have been leading this quest to catch a 15 year old red-handed. Last night, it came to fruition. Let me set up this story for you:
Monday evening, Eric took Carter to swimming lessons at the Y. In an admittedly stupid move, Eric left all of their stuff, including his phone, in a locker. While they were participating in swimming lessons, someone tossed the locker and stole the cell phone. I tried calling the phone for several hours following the theft - never an answer.
Here's the first idiotic move by the 15 year old. He posts the phone for sale on Craigslist immediately, and lists his own cell number as a contact. So, I initiate a text conversation with the kid. At the time, I didn't know it was a kid, but I threw his cell number into the search bar in facebook, and sure enough, it attached to his account. So now I had the age, name, and location of this kid. From there, I searched his friends list to see if there were other people with the same last name. Guess who was on there? His daddy-o. So then I broaden that search to a Google listing for the dad, which provides me with place of employment, home address, home phone number, etc. It's rather concerning what's out there for anyone to see via the internet. So, I write down all the dad's information because it certainly comes into play later in this ordeal. Back to the texting - I stay up for two hours texting this kid, trying to pretend I'm just a dumb adult looking for a phone. We decide on a meeting place the following day (yesterday) and a price for the phone (knowing full well not one dime was going to be paid for this phone).
Here's the second idiotic move by the kid. I asked him if he could send me a copy of the sticker behind the battery. For anyone who has a cell phone (doesn't matter what kind), this sticker contains a wealth of information, such as the model number, SKU, and most importantly the IMEI number (which is trackable). The kid sends me a picture of the sticker. Bless his heart. ;) So I now have the IMEI number, which I confirm is the same number registered to the tracking app Eric has on his phone. So I printed that account sheet, which I would later show the kid. I also hopped online and filed a police report just in case the meeting with the kid ended differently than I had planned. I also printed the police report, which I later showed the kid as well.
The kid then attempts to get more money from me, telling me that he has other offers. I increase my offer, still knowing that no money is going to be exchanged here, and confirm that he will hold the phone for me. Done and done.
So 6:30 last night rolls around. My aunt met me at the gas station where this kid wanted to meet, and parked a few spaces down just in case something went wrong. The kid rolls up on his bike (no joke) right on time. I get out of my car and introduce myself to him. He hands the phone right over, including the case, and sure enough, it's Eric's. So I take off the back cover to double-check the numbers on the sticker. Once I determine that it's still the phone he sent me pictures of, I said "great, let me grab the cash out of my car". I opened the car door, tossed the phone in, grabbed the police report and account sheet, and locked the car. As I was walking back to the kid, he looked rather confused by the paper that didn't happen to be cash.
Me: Is your name [_____]?
Him: Uh, yeah.
Me: And is your dad [_____]?
Me: And you guys live right up the street at [____________]?
Him: Um, yeah.
(insert a really confused kid)
Me: Do you want to know how I know all of this information, [_____]?
Me: Ok, this phone was stolen last night from a locker at the Y. The phone also had a tracker app on it. We initiated a trace and it showed the location as your home address. (a little white lie, sure) So I was able to run a search on that address, which lead me to your dad's name, his place of work, your home phone number, and I also tracked you down on Facebook. Here's a copy of the tracker app account sheet showing the matching IMEI number to the one that's on the sticker on the phone.
Me: And here's a copy of the police report I filed today (insert 15 year old panic moment, looking around for the cops).
Him: Ok. So, I didn't steal a phone from the Y. I promise. My friend took it and wanted me to sell it for him because I'm good at that kind of thing.
Him: So it wasn't me. I didn't steal the phone.
Me: Ok. Well here's the bottom line: no one is making a buck tonight, ok? I will think about deleting the police report, but I'm going to need something from you. You can text me later.
Me: You can go now. No money. And you guys seriously need to cut this shit out.
He handed me the cell phone case, pocketed the paperwork, and got the hell out of there on his bike. He met up with his friend on the other side of the parking lot, they had a quick chat, and then rode off.
About 20 minutes after this meeting, the kid starts texting me all these apologies, swears up and down that it was his friend who set this whole thing up, and begging me to cancel the police report. I responded to him that I would cancel the police report if he did two things: return the SIM card (which has all of the pictures and videos of the kids) and tell his parents what had happened and have them call me to confirm. Then his story changed a few times, at which point I told him I was just going to let the police handle the investigation since he was too confused to get his story straight. He ultimately decided he wasn't going to tell his parents, so I took the liberty of calling and talking to the dad. We spent about 30 minutes on the phone and I feel good about our conversation. There was a huge lesson to be learned here, and I'm confident the parents are going to make sure that happens. It was glaringly obvious that this was the kid's first brush with anything like this - hopefully his last.