The Investigators: Keeping would-be school burglars at bay durin - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Keeping would-be school burglars at bay during summer months

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Once the final bell rings on the last day of school, many students and parents push the memories of those classrooms out of their minds for three long months.

However, crooks use that time to their advantage.

Hours after the last day of school in May, Memphis police used K-9 officers and their helicopter to find and capture three men accused of burglarizing Mitchell High School.

Just a few days later, three teens were charged with breaking a cafeteria window and ransacking Raleigh-Egypt High School.

"People see these buildings and they know they are just sitting there empty, and they just see it as an opportunity to break in," Shelby County Schools spokesperson Kristin Tallent said.

This summer, Shelby County Schools data revealed that police responded to three burglaries in school buildings.

Last summer, police responded to 19 school burglaries in Memphis alone. That number includes both SCS schools and those operated by charters or churches. Schools hit included Knight Elementary in Parkway Village, Frayser Elementary in Frayser, and Raleigh Bartlett Meadows Elementary off Covington Pike.

According to police reports, crooks often hunt for computers, TVs, and other electronics within the schools' empty classrooms. There's no way to quantify the monetary loss to schools, since some of the thefts are still under investigation.

"The numbers aren't showing anything alarming," Tallent added. "But anytime you have someone breaking into a school, it's something that we're concerned with."

SCS officials aren't willing to take anymore chances. School officers work staggered shifts during the summer to more effectively patrol campuses both day and night.

Additionally, some items have been tweaked with security enhancements that make them inoperable or virtually useless on the streets if they're stolen.

However, it's just not possible to retrofit over 170 school buildings to make them impenetrable to would-be burglars.

"Going in and replacing all the doors and windows would be something that is extremely expensive," Tallent explained.

However, the district does encourage neighborhoods to do their part in protecting what is, essentially, community property.

"These kids belong to us," said Tyrone Chambliss, who lives near the Raleigh Bartlett Meadows School. "We need to look out for our kids and what they're doing."

Chambliss is ready and willing to take action to protect his neighborhood.

"At the end of the day, it's not the police, it's not the politicians," Chambliss added. "It's our own neighborhood. We have to take ownership."

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