Windham High School officials are asking students to keep small electronic devices like iPods locked up after a rash of thefts in the last few weeks.

At least five of the portable digital music players were reported stolen from locker rooms on April 2 and 3 alone, said Resource Officer Jeff Smith, who is asking students to lock up their personal items and register the serial number and model of their devices at the school office in order to prevent theft and ease recovery. One iPod was almost immediately recovered after Smith saw a student using one that matched the description of a stolen device.

Stolen iPods is a recurring problem at the school, especially during the first few weeks of a sports season, Smith said. That’s when the students do not yet have their locker assignments, so they typically leave their bags and clothes out in the locker room, making them easy prey, he said.

“School is a safe place to be, but there is still that element,” said Smith, who has taken to standing outside the locker room and reminding students to safeguard their stuff. “They still don’t do it,” he said.

Cell phones and personal digital assistants, like the Palm Pilot, have also been stolen at the school, Smith said, but iPods are far and away the popular target for theft.

“Those seem to be the favorites. They’ll use them for a while then swap them with a friend or whatever,” said Smith.

iPods are fast becoming a preferred target for thiefs, and not just in Windham. Publications such as the New York Times and InformationWeek have reported on the rise of iPod thefts.

Tools for combating the thefts are rising steadily as well. Stolen911.com, which allows users to list serial numbers and descriptions of stolen items, has around 1,200 iPods on its site. Stolenipod.com is a resource for people who have had their iPod stolen, or are looking to protect their device from theft.

Making the matter worse is the attitude displayed by some of the students. Kids being kids, they often leave small devices like iPods lying around alone and unguarded, Smith said. This makes it easy for someone to pick it up and take it as their own, without having to fish through someone else’s belongings.

“The way kids think, they’ll go into a locker room, and they’ll see one sitting there and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I found it,'” said Smith. “If you find property of any value, you are supposed to turn it in. If you don’t, it’s theft.”

Smith even received a call from a parent upset that the officer confiscated the iPod the student had found.

“They wanted to know why I took his iPod. Well, it wasn’t his,” Smith said.

About 50 students have now registered their iPods at the main office, which will make it easier to match devices found on other students with their rightful owners, Smith said. Before the registration started, Smith had to subpoena Apple Computers, the makers of the iPod, in order to get information off the devices, which could take up to two weeks.

Smith has made one arrest in a series of thefts at the school. A student, a juvenile, was caught after stealing two laptops, a portable Palm Pilot, two iPods and head phones.

But all in all, Smith said, there is less theft at the High School than when he first started there in 2005, when five laptops were stolen. The key, he said, is getting people to guard their items even when they feel they are within the safe confines of school.

At Gray-New Gloucester High School, Resource Officer Randy Staples said students are very protective of their expensive toys.

“Most of the kids pay for them themselves, so they are pretty careful,” said Staples.

It is a method that Smith knows well.

“It’s just about educating people to keep their things safe,” he said.


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