Parents warned to secure vehicles after break-ins at school parking lots


A warning for parents: Picking up your child at school could leave you the victim of a smash-and-grab.

Break-ins have been reported in school parking lots at least six times in the last month on Oahu.

It happens quickly. In each case, the windows were broken and items like purses, bags, cell phones, and laptops were stolen after hours.

The Hawaii Department of Education says it does not have any plans to hire security to monitor those areas, but it is sending a warning to parents to let them know to not leave valuables in their car, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

“I’m shocked that it happened at the schools and at a time when there is a lot of children, a lot of people coming and going and it happened in broad daylight,” said grandparent Deanna Hayashida. “I think we need the security.”

A letter was sent to parents last week informing them of a vehicle break-in that happened in the parking lot at Aina Haina Elementary School. The parent signed the child out of A+, and returned to find the driver’s side window broken and items stolen from the car.

“Our security levels are during school hours mainly or sometimes before and right after school, but it’s for the safety of the children,” explained DOE spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz, “so in regards to hiring security to watch thieves in a parking lot, no, we are not going to do that.”

That incident occurred at around 4 p.m., and the department says it’s been a similar situation each time. We know of six incidents and while officials wouldn’t list all the schools, they did confirm break-ins at Aina Haina and Mililani Waena.

“Parents are reminded to be vigilant and always remove valuables or hide them from direct sight,” said Dela Cruz.  “Although there is normally lots of activity on campuses during after-school hours, such crimes of opportunity can take place in seconds, especially when valuables are left in plain sight.”

Police are looking into whether the same suspect or suspects are responsible for the break-ins.

“They are doing it very quickly. These obviously are experienced thieves. They are watching. They know when a parent is going to go and find their child and they know how much time they have,” Dela Cruz said.

Parents can take actions to make their vehicle less attractive to property theft, including avoiding leaving valuables inside in open view, locking valuables in the trunk and installing anti-theft alarm systems.

Bags, such as backpacks and shopping bags, may be seen as a carrier of valuables by thieves and should be hidden from view.

Officials also advise you to be aware of your surroundings, and if you see someone suspicious near your car, call 911.

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