The Edmond Sun

April 5, 2013

Electronic thievery increasing

Police, schools urge students to protect items

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — After they enter their school some students are lulled into a false sense of security.

Every week, The Edmond Sun reviews incident reports released by the Edmond Police Department. A seemingly growing number of them document the theft of various electronic devices from homes, businesses, cars and at various schools:

• March 27: An Apple iPhone valued at $500 was reported stolen at an elementary school;

• March 15: An Apple iPhone valued at $250 was reported stolen at a high school;

• March 13: An Apple iPad valued at $550 was reported stolen at a high school;

• March 8: An Apple iPad valued at $450 was reported taken out of a locker without permission at a middle school;

• March 4: An Apple iPhone valued at $300 was reported stolen at a high school.

Edmond Public Schools’ spokeswoman Susan Parks-Schlepp said cell phones, tablets and computers are expensive and it only takes a few minutes for a thief to spot an opportunity.

Periodically, the district educates students about the importance of securing these devices.

“We remind them to not lay them on the floor or walk away from them — in short, to not let the items out of their sight,” Parks-Schlepp said.

Parents also should be aware of the possibility for theft and help to teach their children about protecting their property and passwords, Parks-Schlepp said.

She said theft or vandalism of any type should be reported immediately to the campus administrator and school resource officer to ensure appropriate steps are taken.

Edmond Police Department spokeswoman Jenny Monroe echoed Parks-Schlepp’s comments regarding how to prevent theft at school. Keeping items with you — when allowed — and using a lock on a locker would prevent 98 percent of the thefts, Monroe said.

Incidents such as these are a crime of opportunity, Monroe said. For example, if a student is in the cafeteria and gets up to put up a tray, don’t leave a cell phone at the table, Monroe said. Students should treat their electronic devices the same as if they were in a public place, she said.

School Resource Officer Bervis Littles, who is permanently stationed at Memorial High School, said theft of electronic devices has leveled off in recent months, but has risen during the long-term. Theft of devices can happen in a matter of minutes, in the amount of time it takes for a student to get up from their desk, go to the teacher for help and return to their desk, Littles said.

Most students may not keep their cell phones in their lockers, which most do not lock, Littles said. Lockers come with a self-locking mechanism that is often disabled, leaving expensive textbooks vulnerable, he said. Devices belonging to the school district are also being stolen and offenders are not always students, Littles said.

Littles said students’ attitudes about protecting their property at school should be the same as when they are in other public places.

“My motto is trust no one,” he said.

Parks-Schlepp said with the Bring Your Own Technology pilot program under way at Memorial High School, administrators suggest that parents keep a record at home of the device serial number, make/model and type.

That suggestion also would apply when the program expands to the other high schools, Parks-Schlepp said. Digital learning will be spread to students district-wide as wireless networking is expanded to schools during the next three years at a projected cost of $1.5 million. Teachers and students are exploring ways to integrate wireless networking and mobile devices into instruction, while support staff works out policies, procedures and technical details.

Littles said having more devices at schools has contributed to the increased number of reported thefts. Some students don’t report thefts of devices for reasons including fear of punishment, Littles said.

Parks-Schlepp said the district suggests that cell phones be password protected so that in the case of theft private information, especially family banking information, would not be available. Some devices have tracking software that can be enabled, allowing stolen devices to be easily located, she said.

Littles said he has been able to recover some items using the Find My iPhone app, which uses another device with an iOS mobile operating system (iPhone, iPad, iPad touch) to find and protect data. To use the free app, install it on another iOS device, open the app and sign in with your Apple ID. Find My iPhone will help you locate your missing device on a map, play a sound, display a message, remotely lock your device or erase all the data on it. The app must be enabled in the iCloud settings on your device for you to locate it with the app.

Some devices come with the app already installed, Littles said.

Edmond Public Schools has three policies — 5720, 5720R and 5730 — that cover acceptable use, regulations and cell phones. The district’s position has been that it is not responsible for any damage or theft of student or staff-owned equipment. | 341-2121, ext. 108