Thousands of teenagers who can’t take their cell phones and other digital devices to school have another option, courtesy of a burgeoning industry of sorts in always-enterprising New York City: paying a dollar a day to leave it in a truck that’s parked nearby.
Students might resent an expense that adds up to as much as $180 a year, but even so, leaving a phone at one of the trucks in the morning and then picking it up at the end of the day has become as routine for city teenagers as getting dressed and riding the morning-rush subway.
“Sometimes it’s a hassle, because not everyone can afford it,” said Kelice Charles, a freshman at Gramercy Arts High School in Manhattan. “But then again, it’s a living.”
Cell phones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, but the rule is widely ignored except in the 88 buildings that have metal detectors. Administrators at schools without detectors tell students, “If we don’t see it, we don’t know about it.”
Schools where violence is considered a risk have metal detectors to spot weapons, but they also spot phones. These include the Washington Irving Educational Complex in the bustling Union Square area, a cluster of small high schools housed in a massive century-old building that used to be one big high school.
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The trucks that collect the cell phones have their own safety issues—one was held up in the Bronx in June, and some 200 students lost their phones. That could be why one operator near Washington Irving refused to speak to a reporter recently.
A converted disability-access van that’s parked a block away on school days is painted bright blue and labeled “Pure Loyalty Electronic Device Storage.” The owner is Vernon Alcoser, 40, who operates trucks in three of the city’s five boroughs.
Alcoser would not comment, even though the names of news outlets that have run stories about Pure Loyalty are affixed to his trucks. Pure Loyalty employees chatted but would not give their names as students from the Washington Irving complex lined up on a drizzly morning to surrender their phones.
“Next, next, have the phone off, have the money out,” an employee yelled as the teens texted and listened to music until the last possible second. At the truck window, each student exchanged a phone and a dollar for a numbered yellow ticket.