As I write this, it is the 19th anniversary of…
Thieves broke windows in late night school burglary.
I arrived to my school as usual yesterday morning, Friday September 7, 2007.
But as I turned the corner towards my classroom I encountered not the empty twenty steps of sidewalk that leads to my place of work but instead a throng of school district employees and concerned administrators talking into their radios and cell phones. I pulled up in surprise as Principal Joe Bova explained to me there had been a break-in at around 3:30 a.m. The burglars smashed a window, entered the classroom, stole a computer and LCD projector, and then attempted to break into another classroom in the adjacent building. Apparently, in breaking the window the burglar alarm was activated and the thieves fled before stealing much. When police arrived, those responsible had already fled. A nearby middle school was also hit. Police suspect the two crimes might be related (story).
The burglarized classroom was right next to my own. It seems they hit my neighbor’s classroom randomly, and they stole an eight-year old computer projector and middling-quality PC. They can’t be worth much on the black market. I have this vision of some shady character fencing the aging LCD projector out of the back of his truck for $40 cash.
What kind of person burglarizes a school? I try to envision the low-life who visited my school in the wee hours of yesterday morning. Strung-out tweakers desperately searching for anything to steal to fund their next hit of crystal meth? Or professional thieves who go to work daily stealing the way a plummer goes off to work each morning fixing toilets – as a career, studied over years? Looking at the smash-grab-run strategy and meager yield of last night’s burglary, I suspect the former. So much risk for so little return.
And shocking. It reminds me of my uncle who is a Catholic priest and worked out in Riverside County. A couple of years ago burglars visited his church in the middle of the night and cleaned it out: took all the computers, anything of value. It was a professional job. But tell me: What kind of a person burglarizes a church?
My last school was located in a remote culvert on Mulholland Dr. in Bel Air. Professional thieves visited our campus in the middle of the night, proceeded to pick the locks, cut very cleanly with bolt cutters the security cables that anchored the school computers to the ground, and then to leave without a trace. When I arrived to school the next morning, all I saw were very neatly cut security cables, no computers, and black police fingerprint dust everywhere. No arrests. Never any sign of the computers again.
“What did you do at work last night, Daddy?” the burglar’s son might ask. Well, Son, I hit a middle school and stole the teacher’s computers. Pretty pathetic.
It would be semi-understandable of this were the work of bored teenagers. One almost expects some vandalism or other boneheadedness from young people with more hormones than common sense. But a full-grown adult who makes a cold-blooded, lifelong study of stealing is indeed a sorry spectacle. And your garden-variety drug addict stealing anything not bolted down is just about as contemptible as it is common.
For all the world it reminds me of the following quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that have not wit enough to be honest.” I imagine stealing can be hard work, and with a bit of planning, foresight, and discipline a person could make more money honestly than dishonestly. But they don’t.
A discouraging, disheartening, and unsettling event this burglary was – leaving a bad taste in my mouth even up unto this afternoon.
Cables that used to connect to LCD projector the morning after the crime.