Schools leave doors open for burglars

MEGAN MILLER
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2013
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The people who entered three Timaru school buildings under cover of darkness late Wednesday night had no trouble gaining access to the facilities.

They simply walked through the doors.

Multiple city schools were caught out this week for leaving at least one door unlocked overnight. Fortunately for the schools, the problem was discovered by Timaru police during routine night patrols.

An officer happened to try a door to one high school early in the week and found it unlocked, Senior Sergeant Randel Tikitiki explained.

"We'll quite often do things like check doors during night patrols," Mr Tikitiki said. "The idea is, we'd rather prevent crime than clean up the mess."

Police tried entrances to several other schools around the city on Wednesday night, and found three - one high school and two primary schools - unsecured. At one school, they walked into a room full of computer equipment.

In each case, police contacted a keyholder to lock the building properly.

South Canterbury Principals' Association president David Armstrong declined to comment on the incidents, citing concerns about the publication of a school security issue.

Police stepped up their patrols around Timaru schools in recent weeks after multiple reported break-ins, thefts and incidents of vandalism, including graffiti painted on Highfield School property and broken windows at Roncalli College.

They also introduced several security initiatives this month intended to discourage burglary attempts, including giving schools the option to use DNA technology as a way of invisibly marking their computers and other valuable property.

However, those programmes can work only if property owners take the time to put basic security checks and routines in place, according to Constable Michael Donaldson, who helps co-ordinate the initiatives. "It just comes down to being responsible for your own area," he said.

"Police can only do so much."

Police were planning to check school entrances again during last night's patrols, Mr Tikitiki said.

It's unclear why the doors were left unlocked in each particular case, he said. But part of the issue could be a perception that Timaru is a small, close community where tight security measures aren't necessary.

"It's nice that people think they're safe from this kind of crime," he said. "But the reality is, they really aren't."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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