montgomery county police

Maryland District Faces Increase in School Break-ins During COVID-19 Pandemic

Police in Montgomery County say a major factor in rising numbers of campus burglaries and other incidents is the amount of idle teens not attending school due to the coronavirus crisis.

In suburban Montgomery County in Maryland, school break-ins have increased two-fold in 2020 when compared to the same time period last year, WJLA reported.

In the months between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2019, eight schools were burglarized in the county, which includes the cities of Rockville, Bethesda and Germantown, all suburbs in the D.C. region. This year, 16 burglaries have been reported between Jan. 1 and April 30, according to data obtained by local ABC affiliate WJLA.

Most of those break-ins took place between March 1 and April 16, which local police believe shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is a major factor behind the increase in vandalism and burglaries.

"A lot of it is juveniles thinking this is a cool thing to do, and it's just not," Capt. Tom Jordan, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department, told WJLA. "People just having too much time on their hands."

Maryland schools were officially closed statewide on March 25, and the state government announced last week that schools would be closed until at least May 15. (Several districts have announced their intention to close for the rest of the year).

Among the several incidents detailed in police reports is a recent break-in to Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda. A group of teens broke into the school, resulting in an injury when a student attempted to jump off the school roof while fleeing police. Later, local authorities found that the teenagers had smoked marijuana and drank alcohol in the school gym.

Another young adult broke into the same campus with a backpack full of burglar tools and said he was looking for a place to sleep that night when confronted by police.

Montgomery County police have taken advantage of their security camera and motion sensor cases to respond quickly to break-ins. There has been a mix of incidents, Jordan said: “We've seen broken windows. We've seen vending machines being broken into. We've seen vandalisms. It's a mix."

Charges for the break-ins have ranged from burglary, theft, destruction of property and trespassing, according to WJLA. The police are weighing factors such as age of the suspect, their intent and the level of destruction to campus property.

“The bottom line is, you just can't do it... Find something else to do, something constructive, not destructive," Jordan said.

Police have also responded to complaints from community members about local residents breaking into athletic fields to exercise, at times even breaking locks and taking down signs that say the fields are closed. The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School PTA wrote a letter stating that teens were climbing fences to play on the fields.

“This is a violation of Montgomery County and State of Maryland orders in place during our state of emergency: regarding gatherings, social distancing, and recreation,” the PTA letter read. "It is also destruction of property. Per information from BCC High School, the county police and MCPS security have been notified, and the county police will respond to any future gatherings."

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