Schools urged to be proactive

Burglaries of Dunedin schools have almost doubled in the past year, prompting police and Neighbourhood Support to provide strategies for keeping schools secure during holidays.

Dunedin Police Youth and Community Senior Sergeant Mark Crawford said 43 burglary offences in Dunedin schools had been reported this fiscal year, compared with 27 for the corresponding time last year.

With school holidays starting next week, Dunedin police have sent letters to the city's schools to raise awareness of the problem, and encourage neighbours to be vigilant.

Snr Sgt Crawford said offending against school property had decreased after police implemented a prevention strategy.

Scrap metal, electrical equipment, such as computers, tools and food had been targeted.

Dunedin police tactical unit co-ordinator Acting Senior Sergeant Chris McLellan said several schools had been repeatedly targeted. One had been burgled six times.

Often, significant damage to property was done during burglaries, he said.

"Damage to schools costs money to fix. We want to make sure we keep that money in schools."

Schools were often targeted by people who had a relationship with a school, where they were able to gain familiarity and knowledge of its security measures and contents, he said.

Snr Sgt Crawford said police would continue patrols in school areas during holidays, but schools should make efforts to increase security.

Neighbourhood Support regional co-ordinator Sarah Hexamer recommended schools ensure alarms were set and all staff knew how to set them properly. Doors and windows should be secure and buildings checked at the end of each day.

"If you own your own equipment, make it identifiable or unattractive by painting it an undesirable colour, or cover it in distinctive markings which are not easily removed."

She also recommended securing property such as laptops out of sight in a cupboard, and photographing property and recording serial numbers, which helped police identify property when executing search warrants.

Schools could reduce their risk of burglary during holidays by providing extra security, in the form of more lighting and hiring security companies to carry out foot patrols, she said.

Neighbourhood Support would continue to work on setting up watch areas around schools to provide guardianship, she said.



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