If you've set up the location services on your iPhone or iPad thinking you'll be able to apprehend anyone who swipes your device, you may be in for a surprise. Sure, you'll be able to track the criminal, but that doesn't mean you'll be able to do anything about it.

Sally Hootnick tells The Post-Standard that she realized she left her iPad on an American Airlines plane shortly after landing at JFK on April 1. In the next 24 hours she called the airline's lost and found line and left two messages. Then she tried to track the device through MobileMe, and it showed up in a house on Long Island. Using Google Street View, she was even able to see that it was inside a two-story house with a curved driveway. She called police and the airline to report that she knew where the iPad was.

If you watch a lot of crime dramas, you might think this is the part where police sent out a swat team to bust in the door. Or maybe just a single officer to politely inquire about the device's whereabouts. Instead, she got no response and spent the next month sending messages to the iPad and making it beep every two minutes to annoy the thief. She assumed her device was picked up by an airline employee after she remotely watched the device travel to the JFK parking lot, from JFK to LAX and back, and from the San Francisco airport to JFK.

Finally, a representative from American Airlines corporate security called back after she threatened to contact a consumer protection agency. She talked with a detective twice, but can't track it anymore because she eventually just replaced the iPad. So, lesson learned: The real function of the Find My Mac/iPhone/iPad feature is to obnoxiously show off to friends, but it isn't good for much else.

Manlius Woman Tracks Her Stolen iPad Online, But Authorities Fail To Act [The Post-Standard via Consumerist]