Albuquerque Public Schools cuts theft tally by 60 percent

District losses still top last two superintendent payouts

Albuquerque Public Schools
Albuquerque Public Schools


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — From tablets to tuna salad, Albuquerque Public Schools keeps track of everything that goes missing each year.

While theft losses topped $140,000 in the 2014-2015 school year, they were a significant improvement from the previous school year’s $355,273. Both totals eclipsed high-profile payouts to APS’ last two superintendents.

The district’s annual audit showed a decline in computer theft — mostly easy-to-steal MacBook laptops — accounted for most of the improvement.

“We’d like it to be zero,” said APS Chief Operations Officer Ruben Hendrickson. But with more than 88,000 students and 14,000 employees, he acknowledged the district will always have something that goes missing.

APS worked with its own police department as well as Albuquerque police to increase patrols at schools during off hours and holiday breaks. It also reminded employees to keep doors locked and valuables secured.

The list of items that disappeared last year is detailed, right down to the tuna salad and bread — a $15 haul for a presumably hungry thief — stolen from the Longfellow Elementary cafeteria last September. The heist was reported to the school in an anonymous phone call.

Another oddity: at Lowell Elementary just south of University Stadium, an apricot tree disappeared from the school’s garden last November.

A $15,000 commercial dishwasher taken from the loading dock at Manzano High School was the year’s largest reported loss.

But an increase in musical instruments stolen from a handful of APS middle schools nearly matched that total. Violins, saxophones and guitars disappeared at an alarming rate last school year.

One of those instruments, a trombone, belonged to seventh-grader Fiona Carney. Her mother had just paid off the loan for the shiny, brass horn when someone swiped it from a cluster of backpacks and instrument cases at a Desert Ridge Middle School athletic field.

“I was pretty upset,” said Carney, now in eighth grade. “I cried all day.”

Though she’s only been playing the trombone for two years, Carney has been absolutely hooked by the district’s music program. She spends three hours a day between band class and extracurricular practice sessions.

Her mother called pawn shops within hours of finding out the trombone had been stolen. A local store called the next day.

The crook “said that it was his trombone from seventh grade and he stole it from me; a seventh-grader,” Carney said.

Donna Schmidt, one of two band directors at Desert Ridge, said the district marks the instruments it owns and keeps track of serial numbers. APS uses money from property taxes to buy musical instruments and provides lockers for students to store them during the day.

The practice has paid off, Schmidt said. The district has a tremendous music program.

Carney’s stolen trombone was a surprise to Desert Ridge, which hasn’t seen the thefts that other middle schools have.

Last September, five violins and a viola were taken from John Adams Middle School. Not too far away, at Ernie Pyle Middle School, the district reported four guitars, two bass guitars and four saxophones stolen.

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