Thieves break in, steal computers from John Tyler Elementary School

Records: 300+ devices have been stolen from Hampton schools in last three years

(Joe Fisher/WAVY Photo)

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Police are reviewing surveillance video from John Tyler Elementary School, after they say a thief or group of people busted into the school and stole at least 12 laptops from 10 different classrooms.

The suspect(s) targeted 10 windows in the rear of the building, according to the Hampton City Schools. School officials say the break-in was discovered by a teacher who found the damage around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“These are our children. It’s our future, and when you do something like this, I look at it as a crime against children,” said spokeswoman Diana Gulotta.

Photos: Thieves break into Hampton elementary school

The windows were boarded up by the afternoon, but shattered glass and ripped window screens were left behind.

“The kids, I’m pretty sure they feel unsafe, like this isn’t a safe environment for them,” said Frank Davis, a parent. “I am pretty sure they are shocked and afraid now.”

Police say at least 12 laptops were taken, but they say it could be more. Sgt. Matt Bond says police are not releasing the specific number of laptops as they work to recover the stolen property.

“This is almost like a textbook that they are utilizing each and everyday and that has been taken from them,” said Bond. “For that to happen is very disappointing and discouraging.”

10 On Your Side obtained district records through a Freedom of Information Act request that show the theft of computers is not new in the Hampton City Schools.

Records show in the 2015-2016 school year, the district reported 168 devices stolen. Gulotta says most of devices were stolen during burglaries at Hampton High School, Phoebus High School, Davis Middle School, Phenix, Hunter B. Andrews and Campus at Lee.

In the 2014-2015 school year, the district says 241 devices were stolen — mostly from break-ins at Phoebus High School, Kecoughtan High School, Andrews and Langley Elementary.

“Most people nowadays do know that these schools and places of education are going to have those high-dollar, high-value equipment such as a laptop, a computer or an iPad,” said Bond.

Gulotta says students got temporarily placed in different classrooms Wednesday while crews worked to clean up the mess. She says the windows were just installed Tuesday.

“It’s very sad for us to make improvements to one of our schools and then have something like this crime happen and impact our kids,” she said.

The district says this is the first break-in of the 2016-2017 school year. In the past six months, they’ve added 50 cameras. Gulotta says there’s now more than 500 cameras monitoring the district’s 32 schools.

If you know anything about this incident, call the Hampton Police Division at 727-6111 or the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.