Thieves Rip Off Howard High School - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: Alarm System Questioned at Howard High

By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) --  The investigation into two recent burglaries at Howard High School took some strange turns Tuesday.  There are new questions about the school's alarm system, which may or may not be operable, depending on who is talking about it.  The school's principal says it hasn't worked in his three years at the school, but other sources within the Hamilton County School District strongly disagree.

Chattanooga Police are looking for clues to identify the thieves who ripped off 29 new and slightly used computers on January 6 and January 11.

On January 6th, someone entered an unlocked window near the principal's office and stole 22 Dell Laptop computers. These laptops were new in the box and valued at $1500 each.

The second incident happened January 11, when burglars forced open a side window and stole 7 IMAC PC's from the school's broadcasting classroom. 

Monday, Chattanooga Police spokesperson Kim Noorbergen told Eyewitness News that her department had not received a burglary call from the school's alarm system since 1999.  She said her investigators had been told the alarm system was not operating.

However, two sources within Hamilton County Schools told Eyewitness News on Tuesday that the school's alarm system was functioning perfectly.  They said it simply was not "armed," or activated.  As one said, "If it isn't turned on, it will not work."

According to CPD spokesperson Rebecca Royval, Investigator Mitchell Early said Tuesday that principal Dr. Paul Smith had told him "the alarm had not worked in three years."  Dr. Smith reportedly said he had received his first "test call" Tuesday morning at 5 a.m., and had never received one in the past. 

Police say school custodians told them they were told "not to activate the alarm because it was being worked on."

One School Board source tells Eyewitness News, "Of course the alarm system is functional.  It's almost as new as the school itself."  Howard was renovated in 2006, and the source said the alarm system was new when it was installed at the time.  The source says "No work orders have been turned in about this alarm system.  If the principal knew it wasn't working for the past 3 years, why didn't he do anything about it?"

The School Board member continued, "How embarrassing is it that we continue to ask the County Commission for money for technology when we do such a poor job securing what we have?  Just last month, we were told about all the old, outdated computers we have, and how they need to be replaced.  So we get a bunch of brand new ones, and they're stolen before we can open the boxes?"

Principal Smith referred all questions to school district spokesperson Danielle Clark, who said she had not heard about the alarm system being de-activated during the recent burglaries.

 Investigators say their only lead is that a small pick up truck was seen leaving the area after one of the burglaries.  Anyone having information on these burglaries should call the Chattanooga Police Department at 698-2525 or call Crime Stoppers at 698-3333.

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