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Cell phone babysitting: NY teens pay valets for cell phone daycare

Cell phones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, creating a market for mobile nannying.

By Karen MatthewsAssociated Press / October 4, 2012

Cell phone-owning elementary and middle school-age children are becoming common. Anil Remer, 11, of St. Paul, Minn., scrolls through photos saved on his cell phone. "Thirteen" is now the answer most parents give when asked the appropriate age to buy children a phone, according to the research firm Yankee Group.

AP Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press, Sherri LaRose-Chiglo

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NEW YORK

Thousands of teenagers who can't take their cellphones 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.

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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."

Cellphones 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. They 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.

The trucks that collect the cellphones 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.

Mr. 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.

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