RALEIGH — A thief broke into Enloe High School in southeast Raleigh sometime after classes ended Wednesday and escaped with as much as $20,000 worth of electronics equipment, school officials said Thursday.
The Enloe crime comes after a string of nine similar break-ins at Powell and Conn elementary schools since the first of the year, incidents that already had security officials and police looking to the community for help in identifying the thief or thieves.
Conn lost an estimated total of $18,000 worth of computers, tablet computers and other electronic gear, Wake County Public Schools spokeswoman Stella Shelton said.
Officials at Powell had not yet totaled their losses, Shelton said.
Russ Smith, Wake County Public School System senior director of security, said the Enloe break-in was under investigation, and he did not disclose the time investigators think it happened.
All of the break-ins at the elementary schools – four at Powell on Marlborough Road and five at Conn on Brookside Drive – happened overnight or on weekends, according to police crime data.
Wake County schools all have alarm systems, Smith said, but the thefts were completed before police arrived.
Smith declined comment on whether the pattern suggested someone who was familiar with the school buildings.
Raleigh police patrol cars increased their routine security checks of Powell after the third break-in, checking the building several times during the early morning hours, logs show.
A patrol car had visited Powell three times during the night before the most recent break-in happened on March 24.
Police also began paying closer attention to Conn after the first break-in there and stepped up routine patrols in the area again after the school was hit the fourth time on March 23.
Police said they hope people in the communities around the three schools may have information – perhaps without realizing it – that would help detectives find the thief or thieves.
The break-ins began Feb. 27 at Conn and Jan. 13 at Powell.
Added to the cost of stolen equipment are repairs needed after each incident, mostly replacing broken glass, Shelton said.
There also is an intangible cost to the school communities from hearing about repeated thefts at their schools, Shelton said.
“I’m worried for any school that’s been hit that many times,” the spokeswoman said.
“It’s not the stuff we can replace that matters,” she added, but the community feeling and sense of safety that officials work hard to create in schools so there is support for students in the neighborhoods and at home.
At Conn, Principal Barry A. Richburg has written to parents to reassure them and to ask for their help, Shelton said.
Smith said his group and Raleigh police “assess the situation and coordinate our efforts” to prevent new break-ins and solve the ones that happened.
He did not disclose details.
School system equipment carries identification tags that could alert any potential buyers of the computers or other equipment that they were stolen property, officials said.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue and Smith asked that anyone who believes he or she might have information about the break-ins or what is happening to the electronics afterward either call Raleigh CrimeStoppers at 919-834-HELP (4357) or to go to the CrimeStoppers website for instructions on how to report a tip online or by text message.
CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for anonymous tips that help solve cases.
People also can call school security officials at 919-431-7777.