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Computers, iPhones disappear at school

Piles of backpacks, as seen here in the Mercer Island High School gym last week, make it easy for items to be taken. - Megan Managan/Staff Photo
Piles of backpacks, as seen here in the Mercer Island High School gym last week, make it easy for items to be taken.
— image credit: Megan Managan/Staff Photo

It probably happens more than people realize — an item seemingly misplaced was actually taken, spirited away without anyone realizing. It is not a new problem for any high school, but one that continues to happen and can be prevented.

Parents and students at Mercer Island High School have often reported items going missing — whether stolen or misplaced.

While the school’s resource officer, Detective Chad Schumacher, said the number of incidents are about the same as in years past, there have been some larger, more expensive, items taken.

Early in March, a student’s laptop was stolen from a backpack in the boys locker room when he stepped away for a couple of minutes. While the school has security cameras to prevent thefts, it still happens — especially in places where cameras can’t be, like locker rooms.

“Having gone through this, I’m surprised how much I hear now from people that this happens,” said Karen Beck, whose son, Carson, was the owner of the stolen laptop. “More so from in the girls locker room, but this was in the boys locker room.”

The laptop was eventually turned in, after weeks of searching, combing Craigslist and keeping eyes and ears open. For the Becks, it was an eye-opening experience. Carson’s computer was used to take notes and for other various school projects.

“We’re supposed to teach them about how to be good people, and most kids are absolutely fine,” Beck said. “A lot of people have said, ‘Well, don’t you have insurance?’ But the whole ‘just-go-get-another-one’ idea is disturbing to me.”

Schumacher said he does everything he can to help prevent the situation from even happening.

“I’m always telling kids, don’t leave stuff out,” said the detective. “All of this technology that enhances learning are great tools, but at the same time don’t leave them out because it just creates a situation you don’t want. I tell them to lock it in a locker.”

For some students it may take an item being stolen before they think twice about where they leave items.

“Even during pep assemblies when everyone is in the gym, they pile stuff in the commons, so there is always a group of teachers out there, and I usually sit in the commons and watch it,” said Schumacher.

The best way to avoid being the victim of theft is keeping items close or locked away, but if it does happen, people can download an app or use a service which helps track stolen items. Any chance Schumacher gets, he said he encourages everyone to download apps or services available that help track items if they are stolen. track items if they are stolen.

“We’ve solved thefts that way,” said the detective. “We had a case earlier this year that the kid had the app and a map popped up and showed exactly where it was. There is technology to help, just in case.”

In fact, using such technology is the Mercer Island Police Department’s crime tip for April.

The basic idea for a smartphone is downloading an app that allows the item to be tracked, and some offer the ability to lock or wipe the data remotely. The Becks said the laptop had a similar program installed, but it only works if the computer is turned on to activate the program.

Of course, theft doesn’t happen solely at the high school or any other specific place on the Island, but students of all ages leaving items unattended is a reoccurring theme.

In last week’s police blotter, an incident that took place on March 21 was chronicled. Two middle school students left their backpacks at the Starbucks on the South end while they ran across the street to their house. In the 20 minutes they were gone, both backpacks were taken, which included books, binders, cell phones and an iPod Touch.

Schumacher offered another tip, which works for anyone who has expensive items. Write down any serial number on the item.

“Always write down the serial numbers, because if it gets pawned or sold, it’s the best way to identify an item,” he said. Schumacher added that pawnshops are required to get serial numbers for items, which are stored in a database that the police can search — the way a recent burglary was solved on the Island. For items that don’t have serial numbers, take pictures that can be shown to the police department.

For many, the idea of keeping valuables locked away or out of sight is common practice, but students tend to believe it won’t happen to them.

“They are definitely more trusting,” said Schumacher.

If you are a victim of theft anywhere on the Island, notify the police department right away.

Learn more

Here are several website with information about how to keep phones and computers safe.

For Apple devices:  http://www.apple.com/icloud/features/find-my.html

For Windows based phones : http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-US/howto/wp7/basics/find-a-lost-phone.aspx

For Android based phones : https://www.mylookout.com/

 

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