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By Jean Lotus
Before Christmas break at Oak Park and River Forest High School, 59 students reported their phones, iPads or calculators lost or stolen, but only five of those incidents were reported to Oak Park police. And police reported only two thefts in crime summaries given to the newspaper.
The number of missing devices categorized as thefts at the high school that end up in Oak Park police media summaries dropped from eight in fall 2013 to two in fall 2014.
OPRF Director of Campus Safety Randy Braverman said it's up to the parents or students to report thefts to police, not the high school. Braverman, who started last year, said he has revamped the process to report missing property.
"We keep good track of accountability," Braverman said. "I look at the cameras and watch videos. We investigate each case thoroughly."
If parents want to file a police report, they speak to the school resource officer.
"We're not doing anything differently from last year [to] this year, to be honest," he said.
Students fill out a missing property form, which is scanned and distributed to staff and the police officer assigned to the school. Wednesday Journal obtained copies of the fall semester theft reports through a Freedom of Information request.
Of the 59 devices reported missing in the fall, 20 cases were "solved" according to records. Even so, Braverman has a special safe in his office filled with valuables turned in by students and staff.
The careless nature of teenagers contributes to the problem, he said.
"Sometimes students can't even tell me where they lost the phone. Then our hands are tied," he said. "A teacher might find a phone in the bathroom or the halls, and we hold onto it here."
At the end of the semester, Braverman turned 17 unclaimed phones over to Oak Park police. So far during 2015, he's placed seven more devices in his safe.
Unclaimed calculators and eyeglasses are donated to a group that serves homeless students, he said. Seventeen bags of lost and found clothing were donated to the Economy Shop at the end of the semester.
Braverman even made a school video telling students to look for their lost property at the school welcome center.
Three years ago, teenage theft ringleader Pawel Borowski-Beszta was arrested with a cache of 150 cell phones, calculators and other devices. Oak Park police and the high school have said they are working together to increase transparency about thefts at the high school.
But fewer parents appear to be reporting the thefts to police or even to the school.
Freshman Tom Barron had a $150 graphing calculator go missing and his parents just replaced it. His older siblings lost calculators and phones during their time at OPRF.
"We've lost so many calculators and bikes, we don't even report it," said his mother, Dina Barron. "It's so rampant over there, we just buy lousy bikes."
Craigslist does a brisk business in graphic calculators, she found out, and some are clearly stolen.
"When you call someone who says, 'Meet me on the corner," or 'There's name scratched off on this [device] because it used to be my cousin's,' you can figure it's stolen," she said.
Braverman said he continues to work proactively to keep track of missing items.
"We're doing every possibility of getting things back to people; I've been very proactive," he said.
He added that some of the missing devices might have been found and the school never found out.
"We do everything we can, we don't hide anything," Braverman said.
Answer Book 2017
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