Arlington County Police and school officials are working to track down the people responsible for a series of thefts from local schools over the last few months.
ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says her department has received 10 reports of larcenies of credits cards or wallets from Arlington schools since May 2017, with the most recent coming last Thursday (May 31).
She says police are investigating thefts from nine schools in all:
- Ashlawn Elementary School
- Barcroft Elementary School
- Campbell Elementary School
- Carlin Springs Elementary School
- Drew Model School
- Glebe Elementary School
- Jamestown Elementary School
- McKinley Elementary School
- Tuckahoe Elementary School
“The investigation into these incidents determined that in the majority of cases, the suspects enter the schools following dismissal and steal unsecured personal belongings to include wallets, credit cards and cash,” Savage told ARLnow via email. “These crimes are organized and believed to be regional in nature. While there is no indication that this individual is linked to this case, similar incidents have been reported in Maryland.”
Savage says the department is urging school staffers, particularly in elementary schools, to report suspicious activity and regularly monitor their bank statements. APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school system is taking steps to address the issue as well.
“We have been working with police to circulate the images of the suspects,” Bellavia wrote via email. “We are also asking staff to make sure to lock up their personal belongings so that they can’t be accessed. Front office staff as well as other staff members are being asked to be vigilant especially during dismissal when there are a lot of people around.”
A tipster told ARLnow that the thefts bring up larger questions about school safety.
“This put[s] the entire school community at risk,” the tipster said. “It is my deep concern about procedures in APS schools and the failure of the administration to properly address the school safety issue. If attention is not drawn to this now, it is my fear this will escalate into a crisis.”
An email sent to school staff from an ACPD sergeant, an image of which was sent by the tipster, has more details about how the thieves operate. (It also contained a link to an article about similar thefts in Maryland.)
We believe these crimes are organized, regional in nature, and possible based out of the area near the Prince George’s/District line. Most charges are near here and in Silver Spring.
We believe the schools that are targeted are mostly elementary schools and mostly near the outskirts of the county near a highway that links up to DC/MD.
We believe a group arrives at a school near dismissal time and parks nearby.
Some occupants stay inside the vehicle and some wander onto school property and look to enter an entrance that is not the main school entrance. They then look lost, look into open classrooms, and look through purses and only take credit cards. They cards are then maxed out using some type of purchase with money cards at a CVS. This allows the thieves to recover cash from their crimes.