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Crime At West

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In a quiet, suburban town like Dix Hills, it may come as a shock to discover that Hills West has a large amount of thefts . Over the past few years, the number of thefts has risen, with hundreds of iPhones, iPods, Blackberries, other phones, wallets, jewelry, etc. being stolen within the walls of our supposedly safe school environment.

After surveying a total of 138 students in order to obtain a more holistic understanding of the extent of this problem, it is safe to say the results were unexpected. The survey found that 35.5% of all students have had a valuable item (iPhone, iPod, Blackberry, Wallet, Jewelry, or any other thing of high value) stolen. Both males and females were almost equally prone to thievery: 36.4% of males and 34.4% of females had become a victim to thievery. Besides these victims, it seems like almost everyone knows at least one person who has had something stolen, with 80% of students knowing at least one victim. Among males who have had something stolen from them, 35.7% have been the victim at least twice, with 47.6% being the number for females. An even more shocking number is that 73.5% of valuables are stolen in the gym or from gym lockers.With these shocking statistics, thieving incidents continued to go up, with 49% of all surveyed incidents happening this year? The answer is that these thieves are getting smarter, and the school simply can’t catch up to them. Culprits are stealing the valuables from the gym because it is one of the few places where there are no cameras because the school can’t legally place them in the locker room.  Even locking your locker doesn’t guarantee safety, with 51.5% of gym locker thefts happening when the locker was locked!

Assistant principal Mr. Kindelmann, was surprised to find out that almost 36% of students are the victims of theft, a criminal offense, and that almost 75% of thefts happen in the locker area. According to privacy laws, cameras cannot be placed in a classroom, which includes the gymnasium and for obvious privacy reason the gym locker rooms. The school has limited monitoring over these areas because of these laws, and while the school is making an effort to halt thievery by locking the locker room doors during class periods, these criminals still manage to wait until their victim leaves and break into their lockers. Despite these legal restrictions, students can complain that the school is not doing enough to stop thievery before it happens. The current suspension period the school is allowed to enforce is only five days, which is barely anything in some student’s opinions. Also it is fairly easy to hide stolen goods immediately after they are stolen, as a police officer of 25 years and current drivers’ ed instructor who goes by the name P told me that thieves shockingly hide stolen goods in their underwear, a place a school administrator cannot legally search.
One of these theft cases happened to an 11th grade honors student, who wished to remain anonymous in this report. When asked how the thief opened her locker she said, “I have no idea because they took the lock also.” It is most likely that the thieves have been using locker cutters or have been secretly observing a victim to see what combo they are using. When asked what the school did in response to her theft she had some harsh words: “The school said that it wasn’t their responsibility because they [the school] said what you have in your gym locker is your responsibility. But even though I locked it they still didn’t care.” Her attitude and criticism of the school seems to resonate with many students, frustrated that their items haven’t been returned and the thieves haven’t been caught, or if they are have been barely punished. Principal Ebanks did address the number of locked locker thefts saying: “what students need to do is to turn the dial after the clock to clear the combination,” something that many students don’t realize when closing their lockers.

Besides the gym locker area, many cases of stealing happen in the school library. Mrs. Lennon, the school librarian said that “We’ve had incidents where students have been charging their phones and other students just take them, and when the student comes back they are gone” Mrs. Lennon estimates that the number of theft cases this year is about ten. Junior, Yahya Rashidzada is one of the victims of these thefts, his iPhone 4 got stolen earlier this year. “It was charging and someone took it, and I tried to report it [to the administration], but they couldn’t find the person,” said Rashidzada. Similiar to the gym locker room, the library surprisingly doesn’t have a single camera. “I would welcome cameras in the library,” said Mrs. Lennon, who agrees that by adding cameras thieves could be caught more. After speaking to Mrs. Trotter on the issue of cameras in the library, she shared her concerns about the legality that would arise as a result of placing cameras in classrooms. However when it comes to the library, Mrs. Lennon doesn’t believe that it constitutes a classroom and Mrs. Trotter left the matter open for discussion saying, “the school will consider it [placing a camera in the library].”

Officer P also discussed exactly where these stolen goods end up. In the case of the iPhone, the thief usually immediately removes the battery, which takes the GPS locater out of the phone, making it impossible to track. If the victim realizes that their iPhone has been stolen, he/she should immediately call his/her cell phone provider and have his/her phone deactivated so that the thief cannot use it to make calls or get credit card info. Despite the phone deactivation, the thief can take the phone to a pawn shop where it can be traded to up to a staggering $400.
With 36% of students being the victim of theft, there remains only one harsh reality: don’t bring your valuables to school. While this is tough to accept for many students who text under their desk, simply leave your phone and your jewelry home to avoid absolutely any problems. As Mr. Kindelmann said: “There’s just no safe place to leave your iPhone [or any other valuable] in school.” The reality is that the only true safe place for students’ valuables is at home.