San Francisco school officials hope surveillance video helps police catch laptop thief

A break-in at a school in San Francisco has left teachers scrambling to replace 100 stolen laptops.

St. Thomas the Apostle elementary school in the Richmond District showed KTVU its surveillance videos of the thief in hopes of identifying him.

A man about 5'5" inches tall with a medium build is seen going from room to room before leaving with laptops meant for students.

He was inside the school for five hours.

School starts in a few weeks on August 24th.

The laptops were supposed to be distributed to students before the first day of class for distance learning.

"Basically, he took the laptop cart at the top of the stairs , shoved it off and let it tumble down the stairs so it would bust open," says Maddalozzo.  

The teacher says the thief broke in through the window of the girls' bathroom, "He ripped off the metal screens in both of these windowns."

The surveillance videos show the thief breaking in around 1 o'clock Tuesday morning and spending five hours inside the school.

He's seen calmly walking around and ransacking the place.

"He helped himself to some popsicles out of the faculty room. He left some melting ones on the floor here in the front lobby," said Maddalozzo. 

The thief placed the laptops in what looks like a gym bag-that the school uses for emergency preparedness.

"Shocked. It was very upsetting," says Barbara Anderson who has taught at the school for 36 years.

She says nothing like this has ever happened before. 

Anderson says the theft harms the school's 232 students and their families.  

They need the laptops for distance learning since there are no in-person classes yet.

"It's hard to believe that somebody would take something from kids," says Anderson.

The stolen items were HP laptops and Dell Chrome books, each with a sticker with the school's name.

Maddalozzo says the thief loaded the laptops into a blue recyle bin and carted them away.

He estimates the loss to be around $40,000.

He showed KTVU a photo of a man who was seen breaking into a preschool also in the Richmond district a few weeks ago.  He suspect that man is the same thief who broke into St. Thomas the Apostle School.   

"I'd like to see him caught. I doubt this is a single event. I don't want some other school to go through the same thing really," said Maddalozzo.

School officials hope these surveillance videos will help police catch the thief.

They are now scrambling to raise money to replace the stolen laptops and get them ready for students before school starts.