“We are a community here, we pretty much all know each other…. and the thought that ‘anybody’ could get in at the front door and get in, was disappointing.” said Doug Hughes, as he waited to pick up his children from school Wednesday.
Hughes isn’t the only Arlington County Public School parent ‘disappointed.’ His two boys attend Glebe elementary, one of the ten elementary schools that police officers believe has fallen victim to a criminal group that typically enters each school around dismissal time.
Once inside, “…they’re going into classrooms, other areas in the schools and finding these unsecured personal belongings.” explained Ashley Savage, Arlington County Police spokesperson.
“Personal belongings,” such as cash and credit cards. Savage said the group then uses “around the community.” A community this criminal activity may branch beyond.
“We do believe that these are regional crimes, we do know of other cases in Maryland that have occurred. Whether or not these individuals will be linked to other crimes within the region will be part of our investigation.” she said.
Thus far, police have identified two female suspects. They believe the women are part of an organized group, that works together to infiltrate each school.
“There’s nothing in the investigation beyond the stealing of credit cards…. obviously we are concerned about this behavior because they are entering our school system.” Savage said.
Hughes said the fact the group doesn’t appear violent gives him peace of mind, but the fact they even got in in the first place, not so much.
“How did we miss ‘em?” he asked. Adding how disappointed he was someone would steal from such a kind and diverse community.
Savage said given the regional nature of the crime, police believe most of the schools targeted, were targeted due to their close proximity to highways.
A spokesperson for Arlington County Public Schools said the district is working with police to circulate the surveillance images featured in the video above. He also included an email APS sent to “all staff”:
“Caution to All Staff about Recent Thefts in APS Schools
Attached is a notice from the Arlington County Police Department about recent thefts that have occurred in at least eight APS schools around dismissal time. We want to ask all APS staff to be sure to lock up your personal belongings when you are at work so they can’t be accessed or stolen. We also need to remind everyone to monitor exit doors at dismissal. We would especially ask front office staff and those near the main building entrances, to be more vigilant particularly during arrival and dismissal time when there are many people coming and going in our buildings. Most importantly, if you see anyone in your school without a visitor pass or who looks like the suspects in the attached flyer, please ask them to return to the office to sign in and report the unauthorized visitor to the police or your school’s SRO.”
Savage said “school safety is everyone’s duty,” and encouraged parent’s to also be vigilant — and to avoid holding doors open for strangers during dismissal. Savage also encouraged anyone who may be concerned to check their accounts for fraudulent activity.