Today’s beginning of the 2014-2015 school year in the Neosho R-5 School District has been preceded by a rash of burglaries in the community, including at the high school.
Dave McCracken, police chief, reported that school officials discovered early Monday that the Don Ward Agriculture Building and one of the nearby trailers at the south end of the high school campus had been vandalized.
“They were intent on vandalism-type things,” said McCracken, “firing off fire extinguishers and doing other damage to the equipment inside.
He said many computer work stations were tipped over, damaging several of them.
“Nothing of really major damage, but a lot of it. They had a lot of clean up to do to get it back in operation,” said McCracken.
He said there was some broken glass and windows, with items strewn around the floor. McCracken said the vandals made entry to the buildings through windows.
“We didn’t really notice a lot of theft, but we had the windows broken out on the inside, we had doors that were pried open from the outside, skylights that cinder blocks dropped from the skylight down to the tile, there were at least two lap-tops that were thrown hard on the ground so they were lying on the ground in pieces,” said Tim Crawley, R-5 assistant superintendent for business and finance.
Crawley said all the mirrors were busted out in the men’s bathroom, and in the women’s bathroom, the feminine hygiene machine was broken into with the money stolen and product thrown all over the room. He noted that hammers were used to break doorknobs and door frames and to break out glass in the ag building.
As police were investigating early Monday, Crawley said it was discovered that one of the nearby trailers had also been broken into.
“In that one,” he explained, “it looks like they reached in and set off fire extinguishers and so there was that fire extinguisher dust all over everything. The room just had that powdery stuff everywhere. It’s kind of like getting sand in your swimsuit at the beach, because you can never get it all out. That’s kind of how that powder is, it just goes everywhere and we had to wash every square inch of that, blackboards, desks, walls, ceilings, everything to try to get it out.”
Then, Crawley said it was discovered Tuesday morning that the concession stand at the football field and the press box at the baseball field were also burglarized.
“Those doors were damaged,” he said. “Mostly vandalism, squirting ketchup and mustard packets, and all the candy was stolen from the concession stand.
Crawley said sound equipment in the baseball press box was damaged.
He said the stolen candy is possible evidence that all the incidents occurred on the same night. Crawley explained that items from the concession stand had been found in the ag building, and then finding the next day that the candy from the concession stand was missing seems to be a link between the capers.
Occurring in the days leading up to the beginning of the school year, Crawley said this is very disappointing.
“Because a lot of time and effort was made to really get these rooms ready, from re-waxing the floors, repainting the press box and the concession stand areas, and to have someone just come in and for no other reason than just to damage it, it’s so frustrating,” he said.
Crawley said it was especially frustrating finding so much damage in the hours before hosting open house throughout the district Monday. He said maintenance crews were pulled off what was an already busy schedule to get ready, and others had to work overtime.
Elsewhere in the community, McCracken said there have been a rash of car break-ins and other property damage, especially during the night over the past two weekends.
McCracken said, “We’ve got someone out there at night wandering the streets and committing crimes. That’s something the patrol is working on now to try to identify these people and get them off the street.”
He said vandals have caused damage to air-conditioner units and power connectors, there have been some car break-ins and several burglaries.
“Mainly property damage and attempts to get in the concession stand at Morse Park, the concession stand at the high school there at the football field, and various locations like that,” he said.
McCracken expressed hopefulness that with the school year beginning and maybe more structured schedules, that these incidents will cease. He’s also hopeful that the beginning of school will help with the identification of those who are responsible.
Crawley has that same hope.
“We have some fabulous kids at this school, some extremely honest kids that care a lot about their school, and we really think that they will provide some information for us,” he said. “We really hope that the kids will be talking about it and someone will come up and let us know. We’re eagerly anticipating finding out what happened.”
Crawley said administrators are looking into what would be a proper reward for someone who might provide information that leads to the prosecution of those who are responsible.
“That is taxpayer property, and so with that it’s really an attack on everybody,” he said.
He said they are still assessing the dollar amount of the damages.
Crawley said the administration is also looking into what additional security measures are needed. Though there are alarms in different buildings, he said none are employed in the areas that were burglarized.