60 computers stolen from W. Phila. school

February 23, 2011 9:03:30 PM PST
Police are looking for the thieves who made off with dozens of computers from West Philadelphia High School.

The computers were stolen in an overnight break in at West Philadelphia High School earlier this week. And while school officials are appealing to the public for help, police sources tell me they're looking at the possibility it may be an inside job.

"Somebody broke the lock and then just took all of them," said Charles Salters.

When Charles Salters got to class at West Philadelphia High School Monday morning, he planned to use computer time he'd earned for good grades and good behavior. Those plans never came to pass. The laptops hundreds of students depended on were gone.

"I was just devastated when the laptops were stolen because I had a project due, and I couldn't do it," said Salters.

According to investigators, three masked men broke into the school just before 2:00pm Monday morning.

The alarm never went off, and their crime went undetected until teachers arrived some 4 hours later.

"Males entered through a window, on the Locust Street side of the school by forcing it open. They entered into the school and went into 9 separate rooms," explained Lt. John Walker.

Inside those 9 rooms, 58 laptop computers, 2 desktops, and one LED projector; the total take valued between $80,000 and $100,000.

"For us, the value is not only what it would cost us to replace it, but also the value of the technology it brings to the kids here," said Fernando Gallard.

The break-in is the second at West Philadelphia High School this year, and the latest in a string of thefts from Philadelphia public schools during which nearly 350 computers have been stolen; nearly half a million dollars in equipment.

Police sources say in each case the thieves entered undetected by alarms, and only went into rooms where computers were known to be stored.

Investigators say they are looking into any commonalities between the cases, but add that surveillance video reveals little to nothing about the suspects.

School officials, already looking at ways to cut costs, and say it has to stop.

"Well, we can't afford it, and it is a really unfortunate thing that is happening," said Gallard.

Police say the computers, all Macs, have stickers identifying them as property of the school district.

If those are peeled off, there is also a chemical tattoo that should be visible. If you have unknowingly bought one, or know someone else who may have, police want to hear from you.