An Oakland school’s back-to-back burglaries

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Adam Taylor has had it. He’s been principal of Brookfield Elementary School for only a year and a half; during that time, he estimates his school has been broken into — get this — at least 25 times.

Two of those break-ins took place within the last week. First, speakers, microphones and other audio equipment disappeared. Then, over the weekend, burglars forced their way through protective fencing and windows to enter the school, which is located in an isolated part of East Oakland, along the Interstate 880, and stole at least 20 computers.

When the first custodian arrived at the school this morning, Taylor said, half the classroom doors were wide open.

Here’s the other thing that irks Taylor: The alarm sounded several times according to the log, he said, but it didn’t deter the burglars — or lead to their arrests. Oakland police apparently took one of the Sunday night calls and cleared it 14 seconds later.

Break-ins are a chronic headache — and heartache — for kids who attend Oakland schools and the adults who work in them. I’ve reported incidents at Sobrante Park, Claremont and Lincoln, to name a few, but that barely scratches the surface of the problem. 

On KCBS, where we first learned about the theft, Taylor compared someone who would steal from a school to a pedophile. The principal didn’t make that comparison during my interview with him, but he said the thieves were stripping away the things the school had done to give its students an equal footing. 

“I have a lot of very, very needy kids,” Taylor said. “We just got the computer lab up and running this year. Now we have to start all over.”

Troy Flint, OUSD’s spokesman, said the district hoped to meet with the city’s police force soon to request more night and weekend coverage for its hardest-hit schools. Another strategy, he said, is to work more closely with neighborhood crime prevention groups. (Taylor said some of the school’s neighbors were very concerned to hear about the thefts, but said they didn’t hear the alarms this weekend.)

 If you would like to help Brookfield out, Taylor said, call the front office at (510) 879-1030.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Real Talk USA

    The burglaries have all the earmarks of someone with unlimited access during off hours. Review/check custodial staff. Review/check relationships between teachers and custodial staff as well as students and custodial staff. It’s unlikely but not out of the ordinary that a teacher might be involved.

    Because the thefts constitute grand larceny the penalties are substantial. Try to see if the school can partner with a local security company to install and maintain monitors in exchange, perhaps, for the school’s athletic teams purchasing and wearing T-shirts that advertise and promote the company’s name and services.

    If they can secure high quality video/audio of suspicious persons and complete with date/timestamps this barrage of thefts will cease. Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Obviously the thieves believe they have easy, unfettered access to the school because of lax or non existent security measures.

    Brookfield Elementary has to move past the victim position. Right now the school is a sitting duck and that must change not just for the protection of property but also the staff and students.

    Have someone contact the feds and also the Bill Gates organization to see if there is money available both for security and a break-in-proof computer lab.

    Somebody “out there” is able and probably willing to help in this situation. Get on Facebook and Twitter seeking help. And, remember that “… A closed mouth never gets fed. …”

  • http://www.movingforwardeducation.com Lacy Asbill

    How do we hold OPD accountable for the clearing of the call for support at Brookfield? This is criminal! Why do we pay for security that is ineffective due to human error?

  • TheTruthHurts

    Police can’t stop crime. Communities can. As soon as Oaklanders realize this and step up, they’ll have a fighting chance. If the community cares about the school, they’ll stop relying on an outmanned, outgunned, outconnected police force and get personally involved. Until then, oh well.

    This is sad, but predictable.

  • Nextset

    You are going to be experiencing “Mad Max” conditions in urban jungles such as Oakland in the near future. No, the “community” is not going to police itself and control the gangs and individual criminals. They (gangs and criminals) are going to get stronger and more bold.

    Just plan accordingly.

    As we speak the state is planning mass release of “non violent” criminals (car thieves, commercial burglars & drug dealers to keep them hopped up). The state has just announced the cessation of parole for “non-violent” criminals (car thieves, commercial burglars drug dealers and stolen property fences). For the first time in modern history there is NO parole for these people when they are kicked out of the prisons. Now they can live where they want, report to no one, and go about their way as if they were just plain folks.

    They will tear our cities apart.

    My suggestion for low cost response of the people: ballot initiatives posting all rap sheets on the internet – perhaps for a small fee, and allow/encourage the use of deadly force in defense of property.

    Then the “community” can try to take care of the problems.

    In any event, some people are more equal than others and you can bet that certain people are going to be less bothered by these thieves than others. I don’t hear about these problems in Piedmont.

    Brave New World.

  • Nancy

    What is out-of-the-ordinary for me is how a school could be repeatedly burglarized 25 times and nothing has been done to stop it. There are ways to stop this like high level security cameras installed at Oakland Tech. How much does one cost? What is further disturbing is why high technology equipement isn’t locked down with wire that cannot be cut? Who is managing the public property there anyways?

  • carmen

    I went to brookfield 2 yrs ago and its a great school but the problem is all of the gangs all around the school and the 2 liquore stores on the corner of the 98th and i would say thats the worst because a bunch of elder people sit around and are on drugs and drunk.