Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Intrusion alert system way forward to tackle school burglaries

| APRIL 01, 2024, 10:11 PM IST

Two burglars were caught red-handed while they were trying to break into a school at Baina, Vasco. Fortunately, a trigger alarm connected to the CCTV cameras went off alerting the principal on her cellphone which in turn facilitated prompt action by the parish priest and policemen. Strangely, police disclosed that the three burglars who were involved in separate theft cases formed a gang in jail and hatched plans to burgle schools.

School burglaries have been on the rise in recent times with over 13 incidents reported in the past six months, most of these in South Goa. Burglars find schools easy and low-risk targets because they are unoccupied in the late hours, unlike residences. The modus operandi has been to make an entry into the school office, decamp with cash, equipment and CCTV equipment and wipe off any traces.

While most schools have lost money in the range of Rs 5,000 to Rs 70,000, an Assolna school which was burgled on October 12, 2023, lost Rs 3.35 lakh because it had fees collected for uniforms in the office safe; and a high school at Khandepar lost around Rs 2.80 lakh in November last year with miscreants breaking open the locks of the headmaster’s office and five cupboards to steal the cash. The school had collected the exam fees from the SSC students and had kept cash in the cupboard.

While the police strongly believe that those arrested in the current case may be linked to the other school burglaries, the fact that schools are being periodically targeted should be a cause for concern for school management, Parent-Teacher Associations and other stakeholders. The system installed by the Baina school could be emulated in other schools so that an alarm goes off alerting officials of the schools. Intrusion detection alert system is the way forward.

Tracing burglars through a parallel DVR system or cloud backup of footage is not going to help because of the poor image capture in low light and the fact that burglars use face hoods to hide their identity. School management must take proactive measures to ensure that some security personnel are deployed at night, at least one in every school across the State, and schools should minimise cash handling by encouraging digital transactions.

Burglaries of schools are not specific to Goa but have been common across the nation and are even witnessed in other countries. Around 200 schools were burgled in South Africa during the Covid phase lockdown. The target and motives remain almost the same in all such cases and police face similar challenges as those of their counterparts in other states. In Goa, there are reasons to worry because of the lack of security systems and CCTV surveillance in certain schools.

Stakeholders in the educational stream cannot remain helpless to this criminal trespass. The spate of burglaries points to the fact that the culprits are systematically choosing their targets, and probably doing a background check on the possibilities of hitting the jackpot. Schools have to be ahead of their game. The Baina school must be complimented for showing the way.

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