DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - February 9, 2007

Schools batten down after theft at Alamo

Businesses with easy freeway access are vulnerable

by Natalie O'Neill

Banks and businesses along the I-680 corridor already know they run an increased risk of being robbed - with the freeway providing thieves a quick get away route.

But now, in light of a recent burglary at Alamo Elementary, schools in the area are taking security precautions similar to businesses.

Three burglars driving a white sedan made off with three computers from Alamo School in the early morning hours of Jan. 31, after waiting in the school parking lot for the janitor to turn off the alarm system.

The suspects, who were dressed in dark clothing, took a pry bar and forced entry into the school around 5:30 a.m., said Alamo Deputy Elmer Glasser. The janitor heard a thumping, crashing sound and saw the intruders on the security camera. That's when he called the police with his cell phone.

"He yelled after them, 'I'm calling the police!'" Glasser said.

The janitor's voice scared the burglars away and caused them to dump some of the electronics in their scramble to leave the scene. But by that time the thieves were already in the parking lot loading the stolen goods.

Within one minute of the report, Alamo Valley Station police arrived; and within two minutes, 11 cars were on the scene, Glasser said.

"The incident was small compared to what it could have been," Glasser said.

While he was on the phone with the police, the janitor was able to give physical descriptions of the intruders. This gave the police a heads up and has helped them acquire three suspects for the case.

"This was the same (security camera) system that caught the burglars at Stone Valley Middle School several months ago," Glasser said.

In June, an SUV auto theft burglary was caught on tape in the parking lot at Stone Valley. After a recommendation from Glasser, the San Ramon Valley school district approved funds to install cameras at Alamo Elementary.

Since the installation of security cameras, instances of vandalism and burglary have dramatically decreased at the schools.

The incident of computer theft prompted Alamo Elementary to add more security cameras and a "concrete-filled" security gate, which was completed Monday.

Beverly Tom, principal of Alamo Elementary, was in a conference and could not return calls by press time to comment on school security. But Glasser said this security is one of his highest priorities. Many schools have begun cracking down on visitor regulations.

Signs are posted stating that all visitors must report to the office and wear a nametag. Students and staff are encouraged to report visitors who do not have name tags.

"People should always call 911 if they see anything suspicious at schools. I don't want people to think they are bothering us by calling," Glasser said.

Even without a 911 call, Alamo Valley Station officers frequently do a security check on school perimeters to make sure there are no intruders or suspicious individuals.

It is also the janitor's job to secure the gates on a nightly basis and to make sure there are no cars in the parking lot when the gates are closed. Glasser added that there are residents who live in mobile homes on the school campuses who can also make reports.

The department has updated its 2007 commercial index, which includes detailed information on businesses, banks and schools to help increase police response time. Utilizing this will help stop crimes in progress, like burglaries.

"Being by the freeway, they are easy pickings," Glasser said.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com

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