When a thief stole a smartphone recently in Western Branch, the tech-savvy victim knew what to do.

He had been shopping in December when he set down his phone, police said. Moments later, the Samsung Galaxy S3 was gone.

So the man activated an app installed on the phone called Track Viewer. The device covertly recorded images of a stranger using the phone.

Police distributed a photo of the stranger from the cellphone in early January and solicited tips from the public through Crime Line. Within two weeks, they made an arrest.

As smartphone technology advances, so does antitheft software, and a growing number of apps are giving users the ability to lock, erase and track phones with GPS. When a person reports a stolen phone to police, officers rely on victims for information about the digital trail of bread crumbs a thief may have left behind.

Often police are asking: Do you have an app for that?

“It does happen where the victims are helping us,” said Officer Kelly O’Sullivan, Chesapeake police spokeswoman.

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