Scales: Countywide School Thefts "Devastating" - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Scales: Countywide School Thefts "Devastating"

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By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- As news spread Monday of two major burglaries at Howard High School within a five-day period, Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales sent a message: it's not just Howard.

Dr. Scales cited numerous instances of thefts during the past eighteen months, totaling more than $200,000 in losses.  Almost half that amount was stolen from Howard, but about fifteen other schools were burglarized or vandalized, some more than once.

The superintendent noted that almost all the cases involved technology, including laptop and desktop computers, printers, DVD players, projectors, and calculators.

Dr. Scales told Eyewitness News that "unlike the old days, our schools aren't just chalkboards, textbooks and erasers.  Thieves come in and get high-priced technology, and turn around and sell them on the street in these fencing operations." He said, "This is really hurting our teachers and students.  We can't just replace these items overnight.  And what's really tragic is that in many cases, people from the community, are stealing from their own community."

The January 6 theft of 22 unopened laptop computers at Howard is not the first reported theft from the school.  In early 2009, it was reported that 27 Dell laptops were stolen in "multiple incidents." The loss was valued at more than $30,000 over a four month period. 

In April of 2009, 13 laptops were stolen from the library at the now-closed 21st Century Academy on Brainerd Road.  The loss is listed as $12,500. 

During the summer of 2009, a total of 37 desktop computers, 6 laptop computers, 2 DVD players, 11 printers, 2 air conditioners, 8 projectors and an office safe were stolen from ten county schools, with Hillcrest Elementary the target three different times.

Since school resumed in August 2009, 4 MAC computers and two desktops valued at $7,200 were stolen from the new East Hamilton Middle/High, 3 laptops were taken from Westview Elementary's computer lab, $14,000 worth of technology was taken from Lakeside Academy, a teacher's vehicle was stolen from Orchard Knob Elementary, and a 32-inch plasma TV was stolen from Falling Water Elementary's cafeteria.

In addition, the recently closed school buildings at 21st Century, Hixson Middle and Signal Mountain Middle have been vandalized on numerous occasions.

County Mayor Claude Ramsey has asked Commissioners to consider offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the recent Howard burglaries.  The full Commission is expected to act on his request during the next week.

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