By all reports, yes, activation lock works superbly at rendering a device useless. Any attempt to restore and re-activate it gets nowhere without the previous owners AppleID password. If someone cannot activate it, they cannot install anything on it, set up cellular or wifi service, nothing - they have a brick in their hands.
If the iPad was running iOS 7, the thief/finder will not ever be able to use it.
iCloud: Find My iPhone Activation Lock in iOS 7
Apple (and no one else) can not assist (with serial number or iCloud) in finding a lost or stolen iPad.
Report to police along with serial number. Change all your passwords.
These links may be helpful.
How to Track and Report Stolen iPad
Reporting a lost or stolen Apple product
What to do if your iOS device is lost or stolen
iCloud: Locate your device on a map
iCloud: Lost Mode - Lock and Trace
iCloud: Remotely Erase your device
Report Stolen iPad Tips and iPad Theft Prevention
How to recover a lost or stolen iPad
How to Find a Stolen iPad
What NOT to do if your iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen
Apple Product Lost or Stolen
Oops! iForgot My New iPad On the Plane; Now What?
If you don't know your lost/stolen iPad's serial number, use the instructions below. The S/N is also on the iPad's box.
How to Find Your iPad Serial Number
iOS: How to find the serial number, IMEI, MEID, CDN, and ICCID number
Thank you all for your replies and assistance. I have activated the Find My iPad application and configured the Play Sound and Lost Modes. However the iPad is offline and this has been the case since it was taken. Since the device was locked it won't ever be online, right? So do I have any hope ever locating it or of the perpetrator ever seeing my phone number and reward-if-found message?
I have not wiped it yet, because I will lose any chance of tracking but I am starting to believe that tracking in Los Angeles is a very slim possibility anyway. How much time should I wait to wipe it?
Thanks in advance for any additional help you can provide.
Thanks again for you helpful info. But if the iPad is locked, will it ever go online? It has cell capabilities, but I have data roaming turned off and the iPad was locked. This is because my cell account is in the Cayman islands and I am traveling, so the data roaming would have been very expensive.
Will the person see the lost message if they cannot get to the cell service to turn it on?
1. If the iPad is passcode protected, he/she will not be able to unlock iPad
2. Even if he/she can remove the passcode lock using Recovery Mode, he/she will not be able to activate it
3. If iPad cannot connect to network, he/she will not receive your phone number and you cannot remote wipe the iPad
4. The iPad at the end of the day is still useless to whoever stole it.