NY1 Follow-Up: Educators Admit To Growing Losses Due To Post-Sandy Looting Of Schools
As first reported on NY1, education officials say dozens of city public schools have reported expensive equipment stolen since Hurricane Sandy, and educators say the tally of losses is growing and that school safety officers were not in damaged, vacated schools. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed this follow-up report.
While Hurricane Sandy left city schools with hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and destruction, Department of Education officials now face questions on whether lax security during the clean-up effort led to even more loss from looters
"Yeah, there's security there. I mean, between police in the neighborhood, school safety, people who were there," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott told NY1.
Yet that was not entirely true. A DOE spokesperson later corrected Walcott's statement, saying while there have been many people in the damaged schools, school safety officers have not been among them.
School safety officers have been in buildings where there are students, while the damaged schools have been filled with workers. Most are contractors, hired to do the hard, sometimes backbreaking and hazardous job of making the buildings safe again.
DOE officials say the School Construction Authority and facilities department have been overseeing and securing each site.
But as NY1 first reported Monday, 30 schools have reported missing items they believe were stolen since the storm. DOE officials say 11 of the reports came from schools damaged or without power.
"There are going to be bad people who try to rip off the system and we hope to catch them and prosecute them," Walcott said.
Missing items include walkie-talkies, computers, cameras and cash, but the DOE accounting is not comprehensive. Graphics Communications Arts High School in Manhattan, which continued to serve as a shelter for more than a week after the storm, lost several hundred dollars' worth of books and supplies, according to sources, but it is not on the DOE list.
While DOE officials says Scholars' Academy in Queens is missing 80 iPads, Principal Brian O'Connell says thieves also walked away with computers and automatic defibrillators.
"Opportunists take advantage of when others are down and commit crime and steal and go for what they see as an easy mark," O'Connell said.
While damaged schools may have been easy marks, the New York City Police Department says it has not yet identified a citywide pattern.
But it will likely be weeks before schools know how much they have lost, between the water, the mold, the oil spills, the fires and the thieves.