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Thefts, losses for APS totaled $202K in past school year

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A small refrigerator, three orange cones, a roll of trash bags, nine pairs of basketball shoes and a case of turkey pepperoni.

Those items are among more than 300 reported missing or stolen from Albuquerque Public Schools during the past school year, adding up to a total value of $202,199.

APS is required to outline the losses in an annual report submitted to the Office of the State Auditor. The list, drawn from APS police reports, covers every district site, including schools, Central Office, food services and the vehicle fleet.

Sonia Montoya, supervisor of the APS activity fund support office, said nearly all of the items were stolen, though a few were likely misplaced.

The district’s loss rate varies from year to year. In 2015-2016, it added up to about $150,000.

Electronics are clearly the hottest items: the current list includes 52 laptop computers and 67 iPads.

Thieves sometimes target schools and make off with a large haul.

In January, Harrison Middle School staff returned from winter break to discover that 14 iMacs and four laptops, valued at $5,500, had been stolen.

Tools and other items are also stolen from maintenance trucks, part of Albuquerque’s epidemic of vehicle break-ins.

“They lock the vehicles, so it is not like they are being careless, and they have to have their tools with them,” Montoya said.

In other cases, the culprit is closer to home.

Roughly $2,000 intended for drill squads, field trips, book fairs and culinary arts vanished during the last school year.

A fraudulent invoice for $1,000 was submitted at Eldorado High School.

“We look into all of those and make sure we don’t have an employee taking money,” Montoya said.

Smaller items also find their way into pockets, such as an air freshener taken from Jefferson Middle School (suggested value: $5) and eight bags of chips someone snatched at West Mesa High School (suggested value: $8).

Basketballs, athletic shoes, duffle bags, team hoodies and shirts also are stolen.

From time to time, the district lucks out and recovers items from pawnshops and secondhand stores.

Observant clerks at Music Go Round, a local reseller, have seen APS tags on a number of instruments and returned them to the district.

“We have a good relationship with them,” Montoya said.

Overall, Montoya believes APS is handling losses well.

“We should be careful – these are public funds,” she said. “For the most part, our employees do a good job of that.”

APS Police Chief Steven Gallegos said the district has a plan to increase security and combat theft, though he did not want to disclose details.

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