By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

Someone knows who broke into Crescent Elk Middle School and stole $300 in cash Wednesday night, said Crescent Elk Middle School Principal Bill Hartwick.

An outside window on the building's north side was busted sometime between 11 p.m. Wednesday and 6:30 a.m. Thursday, Hartwick said. Two other windows inside the school were also broken, said Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack.

Crescent Elk officials reported $300 in cash vending machine monies were stolen from a coach's office, Plack said.

The incidences are the latest in a string of vandalism and thefts going back to last spring.

andquot;Reporting it is the right thing to do,andquot; Hartwick said. andquot;It just needs to stop and we need to come together as a community to solve this.andquot;

No graffiti was reported at the in-town middle school, but this incident is the first since earlier this academic year, when vandals tagged areas of the school.

No one was caught on surveillance, though the school has a series of cameras and a recording system. andquot;But it's very difficult to record in the dark,andquot; Hartwick said.

Plack said police dusted for fingerprints, but haven't received the results yet and the case is still under investigation.

Just across the street during the same time frame, Joe Hamilton Elementary School suffered some andquot;glass breakageandquot; and two damaged bulletin boards, including one that was covered with glass, which was busted. No graffiti was reported, either.

Police are asking the public's assistance not just to curtail further crimes, but to find the perpetrators.

Only 10 days prior, vandals hit Del Norte High School, spray painting walls with vulgar words and gang tags. On top of the graffiti, stereo equipment was stolen from the football field announcer's booth and more than 30 feet of metal fencing near the back parking lot was destroyed after a vehicle apparently plowed over it.

The two recent incidents don't appear to be related, Plack said, as the vandals didn't spray paint the middle or elementary school.

Though the Del Norte County School District doesn't keep a running figure on vandalism costs, andquot;maybe we should,andquot; Deputy Superintendent of Business Affairs Rodney Jahn said.

Vandalism to in-town schools has plagued the school district in recent months, most notably in late May 2006, when a fire extinguisher was discharged in a Joe Hamilton classroom, making it unusable for several days. Planters were also overturned, the school's walls and a classroom door was defaced with graffiti and a $3,000 sound system stolen.

In the weeks following, minor vandalism occurred at the middle school, Joe Hamilton and Bess Maxwell Elementary School.

Because the in-town schools are andquot;constantly being vandalized or broken into,andquot; and police can't always patrol the areas, Plack and school officials are hoping the community will help by reporting suspicious behavior.

andquot;This type of disruption negatively affects youth's education (and) the schools are faced with a lack of financial resources,andquot; Plack said.

Jahn echoed Plack's sentiment. andquot;It's really a shame when money that could be spent on instruction and our employees ends up having to be spend on vandalism and other theft expenses,andquot; Jahn said.

Hartwick added that anyone can call him confidentially andquot;with any information they have and try to get to the bottom of who did it.

andquot;Just report it. It's not OK to steal and it's really not OK to steal from schools.andquot;


How to help

Crescent City Police and school officials are asking for the public's assistance to help fight school vandalism. Call the Crescent City Police at 464-2133. On weekends, call the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office at 464-4191.