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Teachers warned: Beware of thieves
Enough pilfering has occurred in schools that officials decide to sound an alarm.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 20, 2007
TRINITY - Tanya Getty knows that teachers can get their stuff stolen from their classrooms. It happened a couple of years ago at Trinity Elementary, where she has worked for three years.
She hadn't given much thought, though, to locking up her purse and other belongings until she got a reminder to take greater care. Teachers all over Pasco County got a similar note in recent days, after four teachers at Deer Park Elementary in New Port Richey had credit cards stolen last week while they were helping kids go home.
"After the e-mail, I don't lock it up, but I put my purse up out of sight," Getty said.
Others were taking similar actions. They stressed that they trust their students, but schools have lots of visitors.
"I think it is a concern," said Keri Sarakun, another Trinity Elementary teacher. "We feel very safe on our campus. It's very sad to think that people would enter our schools and take from teachers. ... It's something we have to be mindful of."
Doug Tobin, spokesman for the Pasco Sheriff's Office, said the department asked all school resource officers to make sure that the word got out about the Deer Park Elementary theft. He noted that it's not a singular event - a couple of years ago, the department ran a sting and caught a district employee stealing from several classrooms.
"We do see this from time to time," Tobin said. "Schools are a busy place. A lot of people walk in and walk out."
Consider what's reported to have happened at Deer Park Elementary.
Witnesses told a deputy that they saw a tall, thin woman in her late 30s or early 40s rummaging through the drawers of one teacher's desk while the teacher was helping with student dismissal. The woman told the witness she was looking for a note, and that she was supposed to have a conference with the teacher.
The witness said he told the woman he would get the teacher, and the woman told him not to bother. She then walked out of the building and toward the school office.
Deputies came out later, when four teachers discovered they had credit cards taken from their purses, which were in their desk drawers or filing cabinets. A forensics unit took fingerprints and photographs. No one has been arrested.
Tobin said anyone with information on the case is asked to call 1-800-706-2488. And he reiterated the message that educators should take care.
"Unless your personal belongings ... are kept under lock and key, they're really not safe," he said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or 813 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.