How you can help the police find your stolen iPhone

(MoneyWatch) The next time you wander the streets of New York (or LA or wherever you happen to live) with your nose buried in your smartphone, remember that thieves prey on the unaware. If you're not paying attention to your surroundings, it's relatively easy for someone to steal your phone and bolt before you have a chance to respond. Is smartphone theft in broad daylight a problem? Well, the New York Post recently reported that the NYPD has set up a dedicated division to combat phone theft. Yes, it's a problem.

Interestingly, The New York Times recently described such a theft that had a happy ending. A woman, using her iPhone in Queens, had her phone snatched right out of her hands by a teenaged thief.

The woman flagged down a police officer who, somewhat miraculously, helped her recover the phone that very same day. How did he do it? He pulled out his own iPhone and used Apple's Find My iPhone app to zero in on her phone, which the thief had not turned off. Long story short: They chased him down, and recovered the phone, more like something out of a television show rather than real life.

There's a lesson to be learned here: You should opt into Find My iPhone, because, if your phone is stolen and your thief isn't savvy, Apple's app can help you get your phone back.

If you've never opted into Find My iPhone -- or you're not sure if you have it -- don't worry. You can do it in just a couple of minutes. On your phone, tap Settings, then tap iCloud, and make sure that Find My iPhone is enabled. To verify that all is working as expected, visit Apple's iCloud site and find your phone by clicking the Find My iPhone icon.