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Fourth break-in occurs at a school

Police looking for two burglars, one of whom left behind pair of shoes

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Juneau police said they are looking for a pair of sweet-toothed burglars, one of whom is missing a pair of shoes and may be responsible for four school break-ins in less than a week.

Responding to a burglar alarm at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, police said they found two suspects in the Mendenhall River Community School.

The responding officers tried to contain the suspects inside the school, but the suspects were able to escape on foot, according to Juneau Police Sgt. Dave Campbell.

Campbell said one suspect lost a pair of shoes during the escape, and a backpack with tools believed to have been used to break into the building was also left behind. Mendenhall River Community School Principal Patty Newman said it looked like a crowbar had been used to pry open doors and an indoor window.

The shoes and the backpack and its tools were taken by police as evidence, Campbell said, and could help lead police to the suspects.

"We're hopeful that the items we were able to retrieve will produce something for us," Campbell said.

Newman said she didn't think anything of value was missing from the school, but a candy cache in a storage area had been rummaged through.

"As far as we could tell, they really just got into candy," Newman said.

Campbell said police think that Wednesday's break-in could be linked to the string of school break-ins last weekend in which three schools, including Mendenhall River Community School, were broken into.

"There are some similarities," Campbell said.

But he added that police are still processing the evidence to determine if the crimes were committed by the same people, and he can't say definitively that they are related.

At Riverbend Elementary, thieves ran off with a digital camera and some candy, according to school staff. The school was vandalized.

At Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, nine laptops were taken.

Another laptop was taken at the Mendenhall River Community School, Newman said, when thieves pried open a classroom window and stole a teacher's laptop.

She also said a car was used during that burglary. Police found no car during Tuesday's break-in.

Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan said the district is doing a number of things to thwart any potential future break-ins, including contracting with a security company for additional surveillance.

Newman said she thinks Mendenhall River Community School, which has been the target of vandals in the past, is a more attractive target for criminals because of its out-of-the-way location on Back Loop Road. Some of its entrances are out of view from the road.

She said the mess made by the break-in was cleaned up before students arrived Wednesday. Newman added there was a feeling in the school that their space, which teachers and administrators try to make safe for students, had been violated.

"It's not a comfortable feeling," Newman said.

Police said anyone with information concerning any of the school break-ins should call police at 586-0600 or the Juneau Crime Line at 586-4243.

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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