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Laptops are a key target for school thieves

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Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 10:35 am, Fri May 11, 2012.

Lightweight, portable technology might be a boon for teachers, but the devices make easy targets for would-be thieves.

Art Hand Jr., assistant superintendent of facilities and planning for Lodi Unified School District, said he has seen a rise in the number of thefts of portable devices in the last few years.

"Laptops, boom boxes, anything (thieves) can carry have become the No. 1 target," said Hand.

Nichols Elementary School teacher Tina Cobb confirmed a laptop was stolen from her classroom through a broken window, though she declined to comment further. That theft and one other were reported from Nichols in the last month.

In that time, two laptops were also stolen from Henderson School.

Hand said each theft seemed to be a "smash and grab" through a window. They occur most commonly in the very early morning. Police and alarm company staff usually arrive within five minutes, but that is often enough time for the suspect to get away.

Beckman School has been the victim of one break in this year.

A rock was thrown through a window about a month ago and a teacher's laptop was stolen. Campus security cameras caught the suspect on tape, but did not manage a clear image of his or her face. The theft occurred at about 4 a.m. during spring break.

The district has already replaced the stolen laptop, said secretary Diane Jobe. The district carries insurance against theft to replace these items for teachers.

The surveillance cameras themselves are not safe from thieves. When four cameras were installed a few years ago, two sweeping cameras were stolen.

The suspect was caught and prosecuted.

Jobe says parents shouldn't fret over school security.

"We try and keep everybody out. When (visitors) do come on campus, everyone is required to check in at the office," said Jobe.

Though the property loss amounted to less than $5,000, increased security measures are being considered for all three schools. That could mean a tall fence around the school, more cameras or a stricter alarm system.

"If a site has not had a problem that requires that we do full-blown security fencing, we'll avoid it. We try not to go that route unless we have a reason to do so," Hand said. "If somebody really wants to get in, they'll probably find a way to make it happen."

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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