Photo via Sean MacEntee/Flickr.

Photo via Sean MacEntee/Flickr.

Theft of Apple devices has become such a serious issue in New York City that the New York Police Department set up a special unit to track them down.

When iPhones, iPads or other Apple devices are stolen, detectives with the new unit collect tracking numbers from owners of the stolen property or obtain the numbers online.

Detecives obtain the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, which is usually found printed inside the battery compartment of the phone. It can also be displayed on-screen on most phones by entering *#06# on the dialpad, or alongside other system information in the settings menu on smartphone operating systems.

Police then transfer the IMEI number to Apple. The company tracks the devices and lets detectives know where they're located. Once police have the location of the stolen device they confiscate it, return it to its owner and deal with the thief.

"We're looking for ways to find individuals who have stolen Apple products and return the products to their original owners," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told The New York Post. "It is being done to learn the pattern who is stealing."

Editor's note: This special unit profile is the latest in a series of Web-exclusive career profiles on Read more profiles here.