About 30 laptop computers stolen from school after parents meeting

Metro

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September 14, 2005|By Melissa Harris and Hanah Cho | Melissa Harris and Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

About 30 laptop computers were stolen from a combined elementary and middle school in Howard County after a parent meeting Monday night in what a custodian reported as an armed robbery, police and school officials said yesterday.

The theft, which happened about an hour after visitors left Cradlerock School in Columbia, shook the community yesterday as pupils brought home a letter describing the incident to their parents.

The letter from Principal Jason McCoy also outlined planned improvements to the building's security.

"We feel that our school has been violated," McCoy said yesterday. "When you think of schools, churches, libraries and museums, you hope they are considered to be somewhat sacred in terms of incidents like this occurring."

The custodian, William Pierce Jr., 50, told police that the robbery took place as he was cleaning the building after a back-to-school event attended by hundreds of parents, teachers and pupils. The school enrolls children in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

Pierce said that two young men dressed in black clothing and ski masks approached him with a gun about 10 p.m. and ordered him to lead them to the school's laptops, some of which were stored in the library.

The men, whose masks revealed only their eyes, tied Pierce's hands and stole his driver's license and $100, the custodian said. Pierce, a resident of Columbia, was not injured.

Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said Pierce freed himself and called police. Police do not know how the robbers gained access to the school, Llewellyn said.

School and police officials are not releasing the value, the type or exact number of laptops that were stolen.

McCoy said that he did not want the thefts to tarnish his school's reputation, noting that it could have happened anywhere. He said the district will upgrade the school's surveillance cameras, which are always in operation.

Howard County police officers were present during Cradlerock's back-to-school event last night and will be there again during tonight's. Patrols also will increase during the evenings, McCoy said.

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