Pa. school computers are targets of burglars

December 06, 2005|by DON AINES


For the fifth time since school opened and the third time in a month, thousands of dollars worth of computers and high-technology equipment was stolen from a Chambersburg Area School District elementary school.

Police said Grandview Elementary School at 5538 Cumberland Highway was broken into Friday night or Saturday morning. Computers at the school were stolen in a burglary exactly one month earlier, on the night of Nov. 2 or morning of Nov. 3, according to an earlier police report.

Lurgan Elementary School was broken into the night of Nov. 9-10 with approximately $8,900 in equipment stolen. That school also was broken into twice in September with about $13,000 worth of equipment stolen, according to school officials.


"We think the same person has done all five burglaries," said Catherine Dusman, assistant superintendent for elementary services. "It's in the hands of the state police and we are not sure if it's an inside job or an outside job, but we're investigating all avenues."

"They made off with a number of pieces of computer equipment," including Dell desktop computers and multimedia carts, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Eric Michael said Monday of the most recent Grandview burglary. As in the burglary last month, the school was entered by prying open a side door of the building, he said.

"From there, they either broke in or took the doors off the hinges" of other rooms inside the school, Michael said. "They had, of course, targeted our computer labs to make off with the most high-value items in the quickest amount of time."

Michael did not have an inventory of the stolen computers and other equipment, but said they were valued at about $25,000. Most of the stolen equipment in all five burglaries has been Dell computers, he said.

In the November burglary at Grandview, 27 laptops were taken, along with a Dell Palm Pilot, three Kenwood headsets and a transmitting monitor for the visually impaired, Mark Long, the district's director of technology, said at the time. He said the loss from that burglary was about $39,000.

Michael said the computer equipment stolen in November had not been replaced and what was taken over the weekend was equipment left behind the last time.

"Even since the first break-ins, there have been ongoing discussions about improving security" at district schools, Michael said. The district has 17 elementary schools and some of the older buildings do not have security systems, he said.

In addition to installing security systems and surveillance cameras, the discussions have included the possibility of involving community watch groups, increasing overnight staffing, and installing tracking modules and software in computers, Michael said.

Police and the school district are seeking information from the public to help solve the crimes, Michael said.

Dusman said computers and high technology have become increasingly important to teaching students, but have made schools a more-inviting target for thieves.

"Our technology has quadrupled in the past 10 years," she said. "We want it in the hands of our children to enhance the curriculum."

Michael said the equipment was insured, but the district has to pay deductibles on the policies. The burglaries might also adversely affect future insurance rates for the district, he said.

High-tech heists

Police have responded to five break-ins at elementary schools in the Chambersburg Area School District since school started in August. Each time, computers and high-technology equipment were stolen.

The break-ins were:

  • Dec. 4-5 - Grandview Elementary School; estimated loss, $25,000.

  • Nov. 2-3 - Grandview Elementary School; estimated loss, $39,000.

  • Nov. 9-10 - Lurgan Elementary School; estimated loss, $8,900.

  • Early September - Lurgan Elementary School; estimated loss from two break-ins, $13,000.
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