The case of the missing phone

I came to an ugly realization as I walked into the boys’ locker room after basketball conditioning. Something was wrong; something had changed. My backpack was completely unzipped, my cellphone — gone.

The item I relied on daily for communication, the item which held all my music and photos from the past year and the item that captured so many memories was now in the hands of a stranger. I never expected to be a victim.

My blood boiled. At that moment, I wanted to scream every curse word I knew. Questions like “Who would do such a thing?” and “Why me?” ran through my head. I was lying to myself. There’s a reason everybody locks their doors at night. There’s a reason why Bernie Madoff is in prison. Morals have been replaced by greed. The only solution is justice.

I left the locker room and filed a stolen item report with Hank Goodman, the School Resource Officer. The police told me they would do their best to recover my $200 phone. Unfortunately, the likelihood of success was low. My frustration sunk into the pit of my stomach as I drove home, but a trace of hope still lingered.

Sprint Family Locator isn’t just an easy way for parents to see where their children are. It can help locate a stolen phone. I ran from my garage to my computer, and signed into my Sprint account in hopes of  locating my phone. Unfortunately, it had been turned off.  The next day, I tried again, and my luck turned around. My phone was tracked to within 15 yards to a house not far from my own.

I called the police and they took care of the rest. An hour later my phone was back in my pocket.

My situation wasn’t unique. Soon after my phone was recovered, another thief targeted a gym locker belonging to sophomore Johnny Carver.

“Someone broke the lock on my gym locker and stole my iPhone, clothes, shoes, and wallet with $60,” Carver said. “I couldn’t believe it. My dad and I tracked to his house on our computer and the police arrested him.”

School resource officer Hank Goodman estimates over 20 stolen property cases have come through his office already this school year. He believes another 40 percent of thefts remain unreported.

In recent years, Goodman has seen school crime become more prevalent.

“Word of mouth is usually the way we solve cases right now; video cameras help as well,” Goodman said. “As a policeman, one of the things I hate most are people who steal other’s property. People work hard for their things and then someone who is too lazy to get a job steals them. It really strikes home, regardless if it’s me or if it’s you.”

The punishment for being convicted of theft as a juvenile varies depending on the case. The consequences are diversion, community service, house arrest, school suspension and, in extreme cases, probation. These punishments need to change — suspension or house arrest don’t  teach morals or give juveniles role models to look up to, they just remove the thief from the community or school.

When enforced, community service is easily the best way to shape a person’s character. Through working at places such as an animal shelter, a local soup kitchen or by helping custodians clean the school on a Saturday, convicted juveniles can build character and understand the value of hard work.

In the end, they may also feel a sense of accomplishment for helping someone else, instead of just stealing from them.