By Tess ’15, Alex ’15 and Madeline ’12
When students arrived at School on Sept. 1, police cars were parked in the Rossmore Avenue Driveway, caution tape surrounded shattered glass scattered around the East Atrium and Head of School Barbara Wagner was outside the photography lab, speaking to officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Sometime between 11p.m. and 5a.m., unknown persons threw a brick through the window of D103, the photography lab, and stole ten Apple desktop computers full of student work, causing property loss and damage estimated to cost between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars.
Security Guard Debra Jordan was the first to notice something was wrong when she walked into School at 5a.m., as she does every weekday morning.
“When I opened the elevator, I noticed all the glass was broken,” she said. “Then I ran to go get the post commander [Yolanda Jones], because she was at the back gate.”
It’s believed that the perpetrators climbed the fence by the 3rd Street Entrance.
“It feels really awful when you think that someone has been on your campus, breaking in and doing stuff they’re not supposed to,” Wagner said. “And that they took things that students are using and needed. It just makes you angry.”
Although much of the School, including the door to the photography lab, was alarmed, the windows were not and the blinds were open, leaving the expensive equipment in plain view. The security guards contracted through PSC (Private Security Company) leave around 11:30p.m. and return at 5a.m., a policy Wagner said she had felt comfortable with, since there had never before been an incident like this before.
Despite the fact that the majority of girls say they still feel safe on campus, this event has pointed out some loopholes in our safety system and seems to have caught the School off guard. In response, a team consisting of Wagner, Facilities Manager Philip Burns and Director of Finance and Operations Nick Hernandez decided to install motion detectors and cameras, alarm the windows and increase daytime security. However, some students question the emphasis on daytime security, as the break-in occurred at night, and many said they feel befuddled by the lack of information presented to the student body about what happened. Although this incident has not destroyed the community’s trust in our safety, it has pointed out that the School is not invincible, leaving many Violets with a lingering question: are we doing enough to prevent something as bad or worse from happening in the future?
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
The administration responded to the burglary with an increase in security systems, alarms and patrol. However, the School never formally announced or explained the incident to students, and some parents felt insufficiently informed.
According to Wagner, the School has taken the crime as a wake-up call. All alarms have been checked over by ADT Security Services, a company hired by the School for alarm, security and patrol, and the windows have now been alarmed as well. Additional motion detectors have been put on Munger Hall, and cameras have been added around the School.
“Incidents are an opportunity for us to add more to our security,” Burns said.
Security and administration say the changes that have been made will prevent another incident. “We have cameras. We have beamers,” Jordan said. “Even if they crawl, I watch them. You can’t even get on the ground and crawl.”
The “beamers” are the black boxes that have appeared all over campus in recent days. They detect motion, block all potential entrances and are activated every night. If someone is on campus when they shouldn’t be, the whole alarm system will be set off and the culprits caught red-handed.
Some students said they wondered why there was never any follow-up information given after everyone saw the broken glass and heard about the incident via word of mouth.
Jaylen ’14 said she was confused as to what had actually happened.
“I heard rumors and I wasn’t sure if they were true or not,” she said.
Claire ’14 agreed and said she wishes the School had made clear to students what changes would be made in security.
In addition, information about what happened was not immediately shared with parents. Adams said that at first her mother did not believe her when she said someone had broken in to the School.
Some parents said they were disappointed by the official response that eventually followed. In Marlborough This Week, the School’s weekly newsletter to parents and employees, the fact that vandalism had occurred was briefly mentioned but no details about the theft were shared.
Director of Finance and Operations Nick Hernandez explained that the School didn’t want to over-communicate or interfere with the LAPD investigation, but Sandy Daniels, mother of Sarah ’15, said she was disappointed that the newsletter blurb was “not too detailed,” leaving her unsure of what exactly had taken place.
IS 24/7 SECURITY NEEDED?
ADT Security Services patrols Hancock Park every night, periodically checking in on the properties of numerous commercial and homeowner clients, including Marlborough School. Before the incident, ADT Patrol would visit the School once a night. Now, Branden Jew and his fellow officers stop by two separate times to walk the halls and additionally drive by campus at random times. The company also has a patrol car in the neighborhood during the day.
“24 hours, there’s someone out [in the area on alert], in addition to on-site security,” Jew said.
But Marlborough has never had 24-hour guards on campus. Wagner said that previously, daytime security and a patrol car in the area at night had always been enough.
Instead, Wagner and the administration have focused their efforts on overall security, specifically on making sure visitors during the day sign in with the guards and receive name tags. Wagner announced at an All-School Meeting that she encourages students and faculty to approach strangers on campus and politely direct them to Reception or the sign-in desk at the Rossmore Avenue Driveway. “We want to make sure that the people we have on our campus are the people we want on our campus,” Wagner said. “And that’s just something that we had been doing before, but we [had] gotten a little sloppy about it.”
Some students, including Katherine ’13, said they don’t understand why administration is focusing on daytime security when the incident occurred at night.
“I feel like no one is going to break into the School and try and steal something in broad daylight with a ton of people walking around,” Katherine said.
Soojung ’16 said she is glad that ADT Patrol at least keeps an eye on the School but said she was surprised there was no on-campus night security.
However, other students say they think overnight guards are unnecessary. Anna ’14 said she has “never really thought of the neighborhoods around Marlborough as being particularly crime-ridden” and does not want to be telling someone they need work at School all night.
Jordan argues that although the campus is empty between 11p.m. and 5a.m., the patrol cars are sufficient. “Really, we have 24-hour security now,” she said. Wagner agrees with Silk, saying that it would be unfair to ask anyone to work on-campus night shifts.
Like Marlborough, The Archer School and Ramona Convent have guards only when campus is open and alarm the school all night. Oakwood School and Harvard-Westlake School, on the other hand, both have guards on campus 24 hours a day.
According to Jim Crawford, Harvard-Westlake Head of Security, that school has armed guards on both campuses at all hours. The guards all trained for work with the police and drill both on campus and at a shooting range.
There has not been an on-campus security incident at Harvard-Westlake for the past 15 years.
CAMERAS: SAFE OR INVASIVE?
Since the incident, video cameras have been installed near the roofs of large buildings such as Munger Hall and Caswell Hall and on top of the security booth at the 3rd Street Entrance. The cameras mostly face the perimeter of campus in order to capture anyone trying to enter. Though Hernandez said the administration was initially unsure about installing these devices, they eventually decided it was necessary.
“It’s just the prudent thing to do, from a security standpoint,” he said.
Beatrix ’16 said she does not see why there would be objection to security cameras. “I don’t think the cameras are invasive,” she said. “We have the Honor Code. We shouldn’t have anything to hide.”
But others said they view the cameras as an invasion of privacy. Allie ’14 agreed that the cameras would provide an added sense of security but said she felt “a little uncomfortable thinking that my classmates and my actions are constantly being watched.”
And some students say they are surprised the school is not sharing these security changes with the student body. Katherine said she has no problems with cameras on campus but wishes that the Grade Level Deans had mentioned them in class meeting or sent an e-mail. “I feel like they should have at least asked us if that was okay,” she said.
Harvard-Westlake has both infrared and daytime cameras constantly monitored by security details, but Ramona Convent does not have cameras at all. The Archer School has cameras facing both classrooms and the entrances, while Oakwood School’s cameras are mainly faced towards the classrooms. Ramona Convent Plant Manager Oliver Troung said that his school does not have cameras to avoid intruding on the students, but the administration has been discussing installing them.
According to Hernandez, cameras on campus would have assisted with the investigation of the burglary. LAPD has not finalized the investigation, and Hernandez said the lack of video of the perpetrators or fingerprints to compare to current records left him “not hopeful that [LAPD] will [ever conclude the investigation].”
Auxiliary Services Manager Clinton Oie says these discussions on and changes in security policy are the silver linings to the theft, allowing the School to reassess its standards.
And although students may have questioned security directly after the incident, any fear they felt when they first saw the broken glass has been pushed out of their minds.
“I didn’t think anyone would break in,” Audrey ’14 said. “But I still feel safe at Marlborough.”