News

Burglars deal a blow to schools

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Schools are generally thought of as respected places of education, but in Federal Way they are sometimes targets for burglars and thieves.

Burglary is defined as unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a crime once inside that structure, according to www.FindLaw.com. It does not always involve theft.

Federal Way’s schools are not exempt from this crime. Sometimes burglars break into school property to steal items, while other times the goal is to commit mischief.

When a school is burglarized, it affects not only the staff and students at that school, but the community too, said Federal Way Public Schools spokeswoman Deb Stenberg.

Star Lake Elementary school, 4014 S. 270th St. in Kent, experienced a burglary in 2007.

It turned into a robbery when supplies were snatched from a large storage container kept outside the school, Stenberg said. The thief stole items set aside for use following an earthquake, she said. Stenberg is not sure what the motivation behind the theft was or what was done with the supplies, which included items such as inflatable toilet seats.

“The things they took were so odd,” Stenberg said. “Where do you sell those things?”

Most all of the supplies, which generally include safety vests, shovels, clip boards and food items, were taken from the school, said Diana Seeley, director of risk management for the school district. The theft has left the school wondering how it will replace the items purchased with donations, Seeley said.

In October 2006, Federal Way High School fell victim to a burglary, which included vandalism. The day following the school’s homecoming football game was a teacher in-service day. Students and staff returned to the school the next day to find their beloved eagle mascot strung up in the cafeteria’s rafters with its head missing.

Star Lake Elementary and Federal Way High School are not the only schools that have suffered a burglary in the past two years. Federal Way schools are sometimes broken into with the intent to steal items such as computers or other electronics, Federal Way police K-9 officer Matt Novak said during a ride-along Jan. 18.

In 2006, criminals unlawfully entered schools on 15 different occasions, according to police records. This same year, at least one school burglary occurred in Federal Way each month, with the exception of February, June and September, according to the records.

This past year, the number of reported school burglaries decreased. In 2007, schools were burglarized six times, according to police records. But the same schools targeted in 2006 were struck in 2007, with the addition of Sacajawea Middle School, 1101 S. Dash Point Road. School burglaries are often a reflection of the community the schools reside in, Stenberg said.

Criminal activity has increased throughout the city and the school district has responded to that increase, Seeley said.

“I think there has definitely been a change in the community,” she said.

The school district actively tries to prevent burglaries and other crimes on school property, she said. School resource officers are stationed at the city’s four high schools. Also, the district employs security guards to monitor school grounds after hours, Seeley said. In spring 2007, the district hired a guard to patrol the schools on the weekends, she said. A 24-hour security alarm is also in place at each of the district’s schools, Seeley said.

“We do try to have additional staff on duty to patrol the district,” Seeley said.

Students are also taught to take pride in their school and value the possessions found within it, she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Check it out:

• Federal Way High School: 30611 16th Ave. S.

This school reported 10 burglaries spanning January 2006 to December 2007.

• Decatur High School: 2800 S.W. 320th St.

This school reported three burglaries spanning March 2006 to June 2007.

• Mirror Lake Elementary: 625 S. 314th St.

This school reported three burglaries spanning April 2006 to May 2007.

• Thomas Jefferson High School: 4248 S. 288th St.

This school reported two burglaries spanning January 2006 to May 2006. No instances were reported in 2007.

• Lakota Middle School: 1415 S.W. 314th St.

This school reported one burglary in August 2006. No instances were reported in 2007.

• Lake Grove Elementary: 303 S.W. 308th St.

This school reported one burglary in August 2006. No instances were reported in 2007.

• Sacajawea Middle School: 1101 S. Dash Point Road

This school reported one burglary in August 2007. No instances were reported in 2006.

• Star Lake Elementary: 4014 S. 270th St.

This school suffered one burglary in 2007, said Stenberg. No instances were reported in 2006.

All information gathered from reports supplied by Federal Way police unless otherwise noted.

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