Tulsa Public Schools Hoping To Crack Down On Copper Thieves

Thursday, May 21st 2015, 6:06 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa Public Schools wants the public to help keep an eye on schools this summer to help deal with ongoing copper thieves.

If someone breaks into a Tulsa school, alarms go off and the criminals are often caught.

But outside, thieves can work undetected and they usually get away.

The dispatch center for Tulsa Public Schools has all the latest tools.

This is where calls come in and where dispatchers can instantly take a look at one of more than 2,500 security cameras throughout the district.

The problem is they don't know where to look, until there's a problem -- tipped off by an intrusion alarm or a witness, or often when someone notices the damage.

“Our cameras are there for frankly, mostly after the fact,” Tulsa Public Schools Police Chief Bob Swain said. “We are recording, but often we'll find out about the problem the next day.

The schools are wired with security systems inside and out, so if someone breaks in they usually find out right away.

The bigger problem is someone stealing property outside, typically copper and aluminum from air conditioning units.

This school year, TPS has had dozens of air conditioners damaged by thieves, who sometimes haul off the entire unit.

Thieves are taking them from ground level and even from the roof.

That's why Chief Swain - newly hired to run the department - is enlisting the public to help watch over the schools.

With his staff of 57, that's everyone from officers to dispatchers, they can't alone keep watch over 86 school sites and 15 other buildings.

"I'm asking for some help from the community," he said.

Swain figures if everyone in the community keeps watch, they'll catch up with the criminals who are damaging the schools.

The district's police department has a direct number: 918-749-9966.

You can also call 911 and Tulsa police can pass on the information.