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School break-in

Juveniles arrested, investigation ongoing in Richmond school break-ins

on August 18, 2022

Police have arrested four juveniles and are looking for others who they say are connected to break-ins at five West Contra Costa Unified School District buildings last month, smashing windows and electronics and ransacking classrooms. 

The juveniles who were arrested late in July and early this month ranged in age from 12 to 16 years old, said Sgt. Aaron Pomeroy of the Richmond Police Department. He said police are still gathering evidence and working to identify other suspects. 

Richmond Police Lt. Matt Stonebraker said investigators believe eight to 10 juveniles, possibly traveling on bikes, broke windows or pried open rear doors to get into four district schools and a charter school. 

Surveillance cameras were either only in one room, focused on one entrance or not set up to record, WCCUSD spokesman Ryan Phillips said. And one of the schools, Highland Elementary, has no surveillance cameras. 

Alarms sounded in every school, Phillips said. “But there were some issues with the private security company not properly following up on that,” he added. 

WCCUSD uses Silicon Valley Security and Patrol Inc. to monitor the buildings.

School break-in
Vandals ransacked Lincoln Elementary School in Richmond and four other schools in the area in July. (Courtesy of West Contra Costa Unified School District)

When three of the schools were broken into over the weekend of July 9 and 10, Richmond police were not informed until Monday, Stonebraker said, adding that they were notified by a WCCUSD staff member, not by the security firm. That delayed the police response. 

According to Phillips, the district pays Silicon Valley Security $335,000 a year for two guards on night shifts Monday through Friday and for 24-hour shifts on weekends and holidays. 

Silicon Valley Security did not respond to Richmond Confidential’s requests for comment. 

Along with Highland, Greenwood Academy, Nystrom Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, and Bayview Elementary were hit between July 2 and July 16, as well as Richmond Charter Academy. All are in Richmond, except for Bayview, which is in San Pablo. 

Lincoln — which has a camera that does not record and is only at the front door — was hit the hardest. With school out during the summer, a lot of school supplies that normally are in locked classrooms were instead in hallways, to make it easier for custodians to wax classroom floors. Vandals got into those supplies, littering rooms and halls with paper, pencils, crayons and other debris. Among the supplies were metal baseball bats that were used to break windows and laptops, Phillips said. 

The district is still tallying the cost of all the damage.  

“It is unconscionable that anyone would want to intentionally do so much damage to a place that serves as a safe haven and place to learn for so many young people,” Superintendent Chris Hurst said in a post on the district website. 

Stonebraker said some electronics were stolen, but police were still determining the value of those items. 

Stonebraker said the lack of camera coverage has complicated the investigation. Cameras did capture images of suspects. But Stonebraker said because they are minors, police are not releasing the photos, or any names, to the public.

The community came together to clean up Lincoln Elementary and support the affected teachers. Phillips said Chevron partnered with teachers to clean up some of the damage.

Other Bay Area teachers reached out to offer their extra supplies. The Chamberlin Education Foundation, which was set up to support WCCUSD schools, donated money to affected teachers. And the West Contra Costa Public Education Fund launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Lincoln teachers. 

“We’re super appreciative,” Phillips said. “Very appreciative of all of our hardworking staff for all the work that they did to try to get the school cleaned up.”

School break-in
Lincoln Elementary School vandalism. (Courtesy of West Contra Costa Unified School District)

West Contra Costa students returned to school on Aug. 16.

Police are asking anyone with information about the crimes to call the department at 510-233-1214.

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