Parent ID'd as suspect in school laptop thefts

Connecticut's school district now in process of adding security cameras and access control


Jan. 9--GUILFORD -- Police say they have identified a parent as a suspect in the theft of six laptop computers from three schools last month.

The police department has applied for a warrant to arrest the person, who has children in the school district, and is waiting for it to be signed by a judge, Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Hutchinson said. He did not identify the suspect, pending issuance of the warrant.

"We've identified somebody who's admitted to stealing them," he said. "We haven't had any (thefts) since then, and we're expecting to make an arrest as soon as the warrants are back."

School officials reported thefts Dec. 4, 11, 17 and 18, Hutchinson said. The losses occurred at Calvin Leete and Guilford Lakes schools and Abraham Baldwin Middle School, according to the school district.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella said the first theft, at Calvin Leete School, occurred on a day when school was not in session, but workers were in the building. The other thefts occurred at the end of the school day, when the laptops were taken from unlocked classrooms.

All of the laptops are school district property issued to teachers. Forcella said that any sensitive information on them would be protected by password, and he does not believe there is cause for concern in that regard.

The school district is in the process of installing security cameras and electronic key card access at all of the district's schools, Forcella said. Currently, only the high school has video cameras.

The electronic access would allow teachers to keep all doors, other than the main entrance, locked during the school day and would track people entering the building, Forcella said. In this case, he said he believes the parent entered through the main door at school dismissal time but did not sign in, as required at all schools.

The suspect is a parent of a student at Calvin Leete School, Forcella said, but appeared out of place to teachers at the other schools.

"There seemed to be a pattern, and we asked the staff to see if they recognized anyone at the close of school who was in the building that didn't look familiar, and they were able to identify someone and gave the information to the police," he said.

The laptops are each worth about $1,000, Hutchinson said. Two of the laptops have been recovered, he added.

Forcella said that he has reminded teachers to lock the door when they leave their classrooms.

"Teachers are supposed to lock their doors when they leave, but, you know, if you're running out to do bus duty or go to a faculty meeting, they don't always think to lock their doors," he said. "So we did issue a reminder to all staff."

Copyright (c) 2009, New Haven Register, Conn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.