Police search for school computer thieves

Police are looking for help in identifying two men wanted in a series of break-ins at Glendale and Redondo Beach schools last year, stealing a total of 23 computers.

Surveillance video footage at Keppel Elementary showed the men, wearing hooded sweatshirts, entering the building and using a trash can to hold open a classroom door. One of the men held a flashlight and looked into classroom windows.

Keppel and Redondo Union High School were each burglarized twice by these men between Aug. 24 to Dec. 4, police said.

“These individuals are not local to Glendale,” Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said. “They obviously target a wide region.”

In both Keppel break-ins, which occurred Nov. 16 and Dec. 3, the burglars entered the campus between 3:30 a.m. and 7 a.m., breaking a window to enter the principal’s office and a classroom, according to police. Two computers were stolen in each burglary.

Soon after the second break-in, Glendale detectives asked other law enforcement agencies if similar thefts had occurred in their communities, leading them to an open case in the South Bay.

On Aug. 24, 13 Apple computers, which cost about $1,700 each, were stolen, along with camera equipment, from a classroom from Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, school officials said.

The burglars returned again on Dec. 4 and stole six computers, which had replaced those taken in the earlier theft. Seven other computers were left behind near a school door and courtyard.

School officials suspect some disturbance may have diverted the burglars from taking off with the remaining computers.

A few weeks later, school officials discovered another broken window and some graffiti. But no computers were stolen because officials had locked the devices away for the winter break.

After each incident, school officials beefed up the 66-acre campus’ security system, including adding lights, cameras and alarms. And so far, they haven’t been burglarized.

Still, Principal Nicole Wesley said the thefts couldn’t have come at a worse time, given the current fiscal crisis.

“This is certainly not how we want or need to be spending our money,” she said.

After Glendale police reviewed the Redondo thefts, they noticed the burglars were wearing the same clothing — gray and green “Oregon” hooded-sweatshirts — as the suspects in the Keppel thefts, officials said.

Police also believed the burglars were driving a silver 2011 Chevrolet Malibu, which was seen fleeing after one of the Redondo High thefts.

Anyone with details about the men or the burglaries can call Det. Scott Byrne at (818) 548-2097.

To remain anonymous, call the Glendale Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477.
-- Veronica Rocha, Times Community News

Twitter: @veronicarochaLA

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