Thieves discover schools are the land of milk and money

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BUILDING materials, laptops, musical instruments and even pints of milk are among the hundreds of items reported stolen from Edinburgh schools in the past year.

Lothian and Borders Police have investigated a total of 248 thefts of items reported missing from schools in the area over the past 12 months, worth a total of £70,000.

Some of the highest value thefts were of building materials, highlighting a recent problem identified by city chiefs and police.

More than £16,000 worth of building materials were reported stolen from schools including Liberton High, St Mary’s Primary and Parsons Green Primary in Edinburgh.

The city council launched an initiative earlier this month to combat metal thefts from schools and other council-owned buildings following a recent spate of them.

Some buildings are being given their own forensic identities and others will be covered in “dummy” metals in a bid to cut the spiralling number of thefts of copper and lead.

Other valuable items stolen from schools include laptops, mobile phones, bikes and cameras, according to the figures released to the News under freedom of information laws.

The biggest theft was £6623 in cash stolen from James Gillespie’s High School.

However, thieves also made off with a number of less predictable items, including an accordion, wheelbarrow, flag, hair straighteners, guttering, wine, flagstones and scissors.

Thieves even took a chain and padlock and more than £300 worth of milk from a number of schools.

The incidents have been condemned by the city’s education leader, Councillor Marilyne MacLaren, who warned that such thefts can have an impact on individual school budgets.

She said: “A recent spate of metal thefts has taken its toll on some of our schools and I was stunned at the lengths to which thieves have been going to steal public property.

“Thefts and damage impacts on school maintenance budgets and can potentially cause safety issues in schools, so this is far from a victimless crime.

“We take all reports of theft seriously and I’d urge anyone who sees anything suspicious to report it.”

Councillor Cameron Rose, education spokesman for the Conservatives, said that the rise in thefts of building materials from schools highlighted a new trend to which the council must pay attention.

He added: “I expect the council to take a flexible response to trends regarding the types of things that are being stolen.

“I hope we are responding to the increase in thefts of building materials, particularly in light of the thefts of copper from schools and the consequential damage which has been done.

“This is something which needs to be kept under constant review.”

gfraser@edinburghnews.com