WLHS students, officials respond to electronic device thefts with awareness campaign

The rate of thefts reported has slowed. But School Resource Office Blain McKean keeps trying to tell students at West Linn High School how to keep their iPhones and other devices safe.

It’s a simple message: Lock it up or risk losing it.

by: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: VERN UYETAKE - Students at West Linn High School are being instructed to keep phones locked up after a spate of iPhone thefts this fall.“One hundred percent of stolen phones have been unsecured,” McKean said. Students who leave their phones in an unlocked locker or open backpack are creating an opportunity for thieves.

“You’re not even making it hard,” McKean said. “It’s like leaving 300, 400 dollars lying around. ... My first word to students was: ‘Secure your things. Lock them up. Don’t leave them lying around.’”

After seven iPhones were reported stolen from WLHS students from Sept. 30 to Nov. 19, McKean posted fliers in the school’s locker rooms — where the majority of iPhone thefts have occurred — reminding students of the possibility of theft and asking them to keep their eyes open. As a result, McKean began hearing reports of possible suspects, and he interviewed several students.

“I think those things have helped,” he said. “The stolen phones have slowed down quite a lot.”

Still, McKean encourages students to stay alert and report suspicious activity. Students can report concerns to him anonymously.

In addition to securing their devices and staying alert, WLHS students should take one more step. A form is available in the office for registering electronic devices. Registering them makes it easier to return them if they are recovered. The form asks for the item, make, model and serial numbers and costs of the phones, tablets and other devices students are likely to bring to school.

Phones that are truly stolen are rarely recovered, McKean said. Still, registering a device gives the police an opportunity to do so.

“When their phone comes up missing, they go to the office to fill out a form. That gives me a jumping off point to start an investigation,” McKean said.

He also recommends the app “Find my iPhone,” which allows the phone’s owner to send a message or alarm to a missing phone, wherever it is. The owner can choose to wipe the phone clean remotely too.

McKean’s advice — securing devices, registering them and staying alert — should be a lot more appealing to students than his sure-fire strategy for avoiding iPhone theft.

“I could suggest that you leave it at home,” he said. “But I know that’s not going to happen.”

No iPhone thefts have been reported to West Linn police in recent weeks, and McKean credits students’ awareness, in part, for that.

“What looked like an epidemic for a short period of time has slowed,” he said. “It’s gotten a lot better since we took this head on.”

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