District schools 'cannot afford security to keep thieves at bay' (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Education boss hits out as figures show 1,586 raids on Bradford schools in three years
Thieves steal from a school, nursery or college in the district once every 17 hours on average, the Telegraph & Argus can exclusively reveal.
Education chief Councillor Ralph Berry said the targeting of children by burglars and thieves was appalling, and that raiders were often highly organised and committed.
He feared that schools faced with increasing budget pressures were having to cut back on security.
“They have to choose between staff and security, and often they are choosing staff,” he said.
There are more than ten burglaries or thefts from education centres in the Bradford district each week, according to the figures revealed to the Telegraph & Argus under the Freedom of Information Act.
They show: l From 2009 to 2011, police recorded 1,586 thefts from schools, colleges, universities, training centres and other educational establishments in the Bradford district, an average of 1.5 crimes a day; l In 2011, a third of the thefts and burglaries recorded across West Yorkshire happened in Bradford l The crimes include thefts, thefts from vehicles, burglaries, aggravated burglaries (where the perpetrator is armed) and robberies.
Coun Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services, said: “The impact on children and teachers is quite considerable. It’s quite heartbreaking.”
He said some of the high-value raids appeared well-organised and sophisticated.
He said: “Some of this was on a highly organised and committed scale. This is not opportunistic, put it that way.”
Coun Berry (Lab) said when criminals struck, schools had to cope with more than just the loss of equipment.
He said: “It’s the sense of violation, their work being destroyed, the disruption – it does have quite an impact.”
He said raiders could take thousands of pounds’ worth of computers, including PCs, iPads and laptops.
Coun Berry urged communities to be vigilant and report suspicious movements around schools to the police.
NUT spokesman Ian Murch said schools were very hard to keep secure out-of-hours.
He said: “Some of these are opportunistic. They are kids from the local estate getting in through a window to see if there’s anything they can steal. Some will be more organised.”
He said public spending cuts meant schools were not able to invest in security measures.
He said: “There was a period when schools were able to get hold of money to put security fences round, or to make access within the building more difficult, but that has stopped.
“Schools will do what they can. Most schools have CCTV but they can’t employ overnight security because it’s just not going to be a feasible thing to do.”
Pam Milner, of the NASUWT teaching union, said the crime statistics were shocking. She said: “There’s nothing more soul-destroying for children and for staff to see the aftermath of a burglary or theft of personal property. If children’s work has been ruined in a burglary or trashed when people are looking for other things it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
The manager of a nursery targeted by criminals four times in six months called the new figures “shocking”.
Claire Cooper, manager of St Mary’s Community Nursery in Wyke, Bradford, said it had been heartbreaking to have to dip into money raised by parents to mitigate the harm caused by criminals.
The nursery was hit by a series of break-ins and thefts of toys in 2010.
In one attack, yobs broke into an outside shed and storage box, which cost the nursery £400.
In other attacks, children’s bikes and garden tools were stolen, and a donation of £500 from parents had to be spent on security measures instead of toys for the children.
Mrs Cooper said: “We do quite a lot of fundraising, but when you are using fundraising money to replace things, that’s the difficult aspect of it.”
Mrs Cooper said it had taken time to get over the upset, but they had to for the sake of the children.
A police spokesman said: “West Yorkshire Police will continue to concentrate its efforts on the minority that commits these crimes through offender management partnerships, to both catch and convict these individuals and divert them from crime.”
“Anyone with information on any crime at an educational centre is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestop-pers on 0800 555111.”
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