NEW PORT RICHEY, Florida -- There were deputies on the outside, and windows were broken on the inside. It's not exactly what you want teachers, students, and principals wanted to see when at three Pasco County schools Monday morning.
iPads were snatched from shelves, and laptops were missing. Sadly, even the Halloween candy was stolen.
Thieves ripped off children, and the criminals may be kids themselves.
One parent told 10 News, "I wouldn't suspect it in this neighborhood. Amazing."
The principal at River Ridge Middle School, Jason Joens, said, "It's disappointing because of the looks on their faces."
More than a thousand kids piled into the auditorium at River Ridge Middle School as Joens addressed the crowd. As mid-morning approached, more than half the student body had texted parents or grandparents about the burglary, and kids went home for the day.
The burglaries reportedly happened over the weekend. River Ridge Middle School had the most, with 31 classrooms broken into and destroyed. Now, the windows in some classrooms are boarded up until they can be fixed.
Ridgewood High School and Chasco Elementary School were also targets, although the principal at Chasco refused to provide a comment or even meet with members of the media.
A concession stand at Ridgewood was ripped apart, and the only things taken were Cokes and candy. "It's heartbreaking to see kids who take pride in their classroom," said principal Joens.
And here's the truly sad part: the kids raised money to buy the iPads on one campus. Now, they'll have to raise the money all over again.
"They worked hard for it. Now, it's all gone," remarked one dad.
So, where were the alarm systems in all this? It turns out the schools have alarms, just not in those buildings. Now, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco is asking for parents to do some investigating and get on Facebook, in addition to monitoring text messages. Sooner or later, he said, someone is going to talk.
The sheriff believes there is more than one person involved in this, and that it is most likely students responsible, since there was candy stolen. Also, the sheriff is asking local pawn shop owners to be on the lookout for property marked with the logo of Pasco County schools.
"We also want to tell them, this is no joke, no prank. This is a serious crime," said the sheriff.
There is a reward of up to $1,000 in this case. Call Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-TIPS.