Numbers don't add up on thefts at OPRF

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

In a drug bust on Harrison Street on Aug. 4, Oak Park police confiscated more than 200 electronic devices — cellphones, fancy calculators, iPods. You know, the stuff we've all been buying for our high school kids. And since the alleged lead miscreant arrested in this case was a student at OPRF High School, the question was immediately raised, "Is that my kid's $179 scientific calculator!?"

Now it is a few weeks later, and the cops are going through the dreary task of trying to match up the loot to its rightful owners. A week back when we first asked this question, Chief Rick Tanksley told our Megan Dooley that nine calculators had been linked to their owners. A few days later another local news outlet reported the cops were up to 20 matches.

Seemingly, there is a bit of a crime spree underway at OPRF (and I assume most every high school). The anecdotal evidence would suggest that is true, and according to school officials, discipline deans spend a lot of time dealing with the theft issue.

So why is it that when we asked the school how many thefts or reports of possession of stolen property had been reported at the school last year we were told 14?

No, I don't think Kay Foran, the longtime school spokesperson, was fibbing. I think 14 cases were officially reported via a system that is totally flawed, largely unthought, and filled with contradictory messages.

Let's start here: Everyone agrees there is an issue with drug use among our teens. The data we have tells us that Oak Park and River Forest teenagers drink more, smoke more pot and use other drugs at a higher pace than other high schoolers. Everyone agrees that petty theft of highly re-marketable items — electronic devices — is prime currency in drug dealing on even low levels of trade.

And so it seems obvious that documenting the quantity and the methods by which electronics disappear at the high school would be the starting point. Fourteen reported incidents at OPRF and more than 200 devices discovered in a single drug raid are not numbers that tell a logical story.

The high school's message to students is clear. You are responsible for your property. Don't leave your phones in your backpacks; don't carry them in your back pockets. That makes sense. Kids need to learn to be responsible. But if only 14 thefts were reported last year, then clearly the other half of the message has not been sent: If something is stolen, the school wants to know about it. Here's who you report it to.

The school has a large security staff — they'll need it this year trying to enforce the daffy half-closed campus policy. The Oak Park Police Department has multiple SROs —school resource officers — assigned full-time to the school.

Yet, Chief Tanksley told us last week that the few thefts reported to the school are not shared with the department. A student or parent would need to directly approach an SRO or the department to make that stolen iPhone register as a crime.

Clearly the cops and the school need to sit down and make a plan, articulate a message that a phone stolen from a backpack in English class is as much a concern as a phone stolen from a purse in a restaurant on Oak Park Avenue.

Thefts at the high school are tied to drug dealing at the high school. We've got to understand the scope of the problem before any aspect can be addressed. The key players — the school and the cops — need to put their shoulders to the wheel, not their heads in the sand.

Email: Twitter: @OPEditor

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mv113 from OP  

Posted: August 25th, 2011 10:18 AM

A couple years back my daughter and 3 of her teammates had their swim lockers broken into during practice and their ipods and cell phones were stolen. I made several calls and two attempts in person to try and get this reported as a crime. Instead I was stonewalled by the school with claims they were getting close to a resoloution. It was never resolved. They had tape of 3 girls entering the locker room during practice but said they couldn't prove it was them and not a teammate. BS


Posted: August 25th, 2011 12:18 AM

"The school doesn't always catch the theives." Thats an understatement. Who should be responsible for catching them if not the HS?? Wake up OPRF

OP Parent  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 11:35 PM

We should perhaps also keep in mind the possibility that some of those calculators and other electronics may have been willingly given to the drug dealers in exchange for their wares.

Ehy from Anydidp  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 6:14 PM

What does any of this have to do with drug dealing. If a kid has something stolen at the school, the kid tells the parent, and the parent calls the police, and the police officer makes a report. That report can be forwarded for back tracking to the school. So it starts with the kid, and then to the parent being responsible to know enough to call the police to know there is an epidemic of crime happening at the h.s.. What does Fenwick H.S. do for security, or is it even needed?

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 4:33 PM

Riiight, Dan. And the drugs and gun he was just holding "for a friend." LOL

OPRF Admin from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 4:22 PM

Also, the School only has oneOP SRO assigned to the shcool

OPRF Administrator from Oak Park  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 4:19 PM

There were 14 infractions of possession of stolen/property where students were charged with theft. The school had hundreds of items reported stolen. The school doesn't always catch the theives.

J.M Konecki  

Posted: August 24th, 2011 12:59 PM

Well said Dan.

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