This, despite paying a private security firm $1.2 million a year to watch the schools, installing expensive surveillance equipment and enlisting help from local police.
Strangely, the St. Clair County state's attorney claims he can find no record of prosecution for any of these thefts.
Though perhaps this is because nobody in District 189 can quite agree what, exactly, has been stolen. Officials at East St. Louis Senior High originally reported that 52 laptops, valued at $1,296.75 each, disappeared last December. But now Marion Hubbard, a former East St. Louis police chief and current head of security for the district's schools, says the number of missing laptops is closer to 110.
Hubbard's reports listed numerous instances where school personnel didn't set burglar alarms because they didn't know how or otherwise failed to properly secure buildings. For instance, a custodian at Miles Davis Elementary School failed to lock the library's door, allowing burglars to steal three computers and a printer. The report stated the custodian told Hubbard he didn't know how to use a key.
In other break-ins, motion sensors didn't work because batteries were dead.
The reports also showed that Hubbard, after responding to a burglar alarm, often searched only the exterior of the building because he had no key to get inside.
News-Democrat reporters examined police reports Hubbard had filed after the thefts and discovered that "the preferred burglar tool is a rock and the preferred getaway vehicle a bicycle."
All this led the superintendent Theresa Saunders to suspect that one of the criminal masterminds was 14 years old.
Two questions remains: Did the mastermind learn these skills in school, or is thievery purely an extracurricular activity? And, what does one person do with 110 (or maybe just 52) laptops?
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.