Thieves repeatedly target MPS schools

Posted at 10:28 PM, Nov 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-01 09:57:07-05
More than $100,000 in iPads and computers are gone from MPS classrooms. 
The I-TEAM discovered thieves are repeatedly targeting schools across Milwaukee, but rarely get caught! 
Between August 2014 and August 2016, we found 17 cases where expensive electronics were taken. In a few cases, schools were hit up more than once.
On August 16, 2014, Milwaukee police officers responded to a burglary call at Morse High School on the city's northwest side. 60 computers worth more than $45,000 were taken. When police went to look for surveillance video, they discovered a problem. 
"A check of the school's video system revealed it was not operating," an officer wrote in his report. 
Michael Owens' daughter attends Congress Public School, where thieves broke in twice within one week back in May 2016. 
"You might break in, steal and make a little money off of it but ultimately the people who are going to suffer the most are the kids," Owens said. 
21 Chromebooks, 8 iPads and 22 laptops were taken from Congress between May 13 and May 21. 
"That's a concern because that's (tax) dollars lost," he said. "Who's going to make up for it?" 
In October, the I-TEAM contacted MPS to talk about the series of thefts in their schools. 
You can view a copy of the district's missing and stolen equipment by clicking here.
"We do use a number of different methods to safeguard the equipment that's in our facilities," spokeswoman Denise Callaway said. 
One of those security measures includes the use of surveillance cameras but after learning they weren't working in at least one school, parents like Owens have concerns. 
"Somebody needs to come up with a better method of security to make sure that equipment is not being taken randomly or whenever someone decides they want to break into a school," Owens said. 
Callaway would not talk on camera about surveillance camera systems, fearing that information could make their schools a repeated target.  However, Callaway did say the district is installing special software on their new computers as a deterrent. 
"What we have in place now is that the computers that are coming in and the iPads that are coming in, none of them work outside the MPS environment," Callaway said. 
In a nutshell, if someone steals a computer from MPS, that person will need an MPS user name and password to unlock it. 
"I think that's a strong deterrent because when people begin to understand that and the word gets out that if you have a piece of equipment that you can't use, it's pretty much useless to you," Callaway said. 
Since August 2014, the district logged $106,482 in equipment losses. 
The district's policy requires schools to report any loss to the Milwaukee Police Department, but the I-TEAM discovered that's not always the case. 
We confirmed 14 out of 17 cases involved theft, yet only 11 police case reports were filed. 
Callaway said she will check the district's "Insurance and Risk Management" division to see why police reports were not made in all of the cases. 
"Anytime we have a loss of equipment, that certainly is a concern and we take that concern very seriously," Callaway said. 
Out of the 11 cases in which police reports were taken, a spokesperson for the Milwaukee Police Department said only 2 arrests have been made. 
The I-TEAM also asked the following districts about their equipment losses between August 2014 and August 2016. 
  • Elmbrook School District
  • Waukesha School District
  • Racine Unified School District
  • Kenosha Unified School District
Elmbrook School District and Waukesha School District did not report any losses during that time period. 
We are awaiting a response from the Racine Unified School District and Kenosha Unified School District. 
Policy for repairing broken surveillance cameras:
"Per our Facilities and Maintenance Department, all work orders are reviewed and priorities based on immediate need and available resources. If an emergency situation occurs, school-based personnel are instructed to call supervisory staff to expedite the repair," Callaway said in an email after our initial interview.