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Computer heists at Portola Valley schools

Deputies look at possible connection between thefts

In recent weeks, thieves have broken into computer labs at two Portola Valley schools and stolen a total of 31 computers with an estimated value of $28,000, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

On Friday, July 22, deputies were called to the Woodside Priory, a grade 6-12 Catholic school at 302 Portola Road, after someone appeared to have cut a window screen, slid open an unlocked window, and gotten away with 10 large-screen Apple Macintosh computers with an estimated value of $12,000.

On June 30, sheriff's deputies received a report that burglars broke into Corte Madera Middle School, a public school for grades 4-8 at 4575 Alpine Road, and got away with 21 laptops with an estimated value of $16,000. In this case, thieves entered via the lab door, which they broke through.

"We certainly are looking at both of these and a possible connection," Lt. Ray Lunny of the Sheriff's Office said in an interview.

"Neither of these places have alarm systems," he added. "I find that interesting. If I had $18,000 worth of computers and it was a school, I'd have them in an alarmed room."

Residents of Portola Valley have been known to leave their vehicles unlocked in their driveways at night, and thieves have been known to take advantage of that. Unlocked vehicles were common in a rash of auto burglaries reported in April and May of 2005.

"There are no communities that are just communities anymore. Those days are past," Lt. Lunny said when asked to comment.

Deputies are asking witnesses or anyone with information related to this case to call Detective Ben Hand at 363-4192 or call the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Anonymous Tip Line at (800) 547-2700.

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