Break-ins multiply in high school parking lots Car windows smashed, doors jimmied

schools search for solutions

November 27, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz | Kristi E. Swartz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A spate of car break-ins at Anne Arundel County high school parking lots has left car windows broken, CDs taken, principals searching for solutions and police encouraging high schoolers to lock up their cars and their valuables.

Five of the 12 senior high schools in the county have reported repeated break-ins in school parking lots since school started in August: Broadneck in Arnold, Chesapeake and Northeast in Pasadena, Old Mill in Millersville and North County in Ferndale.

Other high schools, Arundel in Gambrills, Meade in Fort Meade and Southern in Harwood have reported no rash of break-ins, but each has had one or two incidents since August.

School officials say obtaining precise statistics on school parking lot thefts is difficult. The Anne Arundel County Board of Education keeps records of vandals only if a student is caught after a school files a report, according to Huntley Cross, special assistant for student discipline.

Also, police don't keep separate records for auto thefts, vandalisms and break-ins at high schools.

Still, while police could not give a total number of incidents this year, Old Mill High School appears to be the school worst hit. Nineteen cars have been vandalized or broken into over the past three months, an increase from 17 in the entire 1996-1997 school year.

"It's a huge problem, and it takes a lot of money [to control]," said E. Patricia Weishaar, the school's business manager. Losses have been between $20 and $200, she said. School officials are telling students that they're responsible for their belongings.

HTC Broadneck Senior High junior Tracey Born said that her 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier was broken into in the school's parking lot Nov. 10 and her wallet, containing $80 from a recent paycheck, was taken. A security guard found the wallet at Annapolis Mall with everything intact but the $80.

Born, 17, from Arnold, said school faculty and staff haven't spoken much to the students about the thefts at her school.

"Someone used a jimmy. I have no idea who did it," Born said.

Some principals are taking more precautions to prevent thefts.

Chesapeake High School Principal Harry Calender has appointed "spotters" -- teachers who watch from classroom windows facing the parking lot when they're not teaching.

Administrators at North County and Northeast high schools have increased faculty patrols in the lots and asked police to increase patrols as well.

Southern High School Principal Clifton Prince thinks an organized group from outside the county may be stalking one high school then the next, targeting secluded parts of the property. He said, "Students used to think it was people from rival schools. But who has all that time to go to another school to try and take a radio? I don't think they have the nerve and the opportunity."

"They've all been the same," said Roy Skiles, principal of Northeast High School, which has had about 12 break-ins since August. "Somebody comes, and they find the time where no one is in the parking lot and then smash the window and steal CD players and stereos, and it's very disturbing."

The vandals often show up in the late morning, smash windows with baseball bats or use slim jims to pop car-door locks and then steal valuables inside -- mostly stereos and compact disc players.

"We've asked police to do more, but the people are pretty slick," Skiles said. "If there's something there, and there's someone in the parking lot, they come back another day."

Pub Date: 11/27/97

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