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Thefts plague high school ag department
Students spend holiday break building security fence
ag theft pic
Turlock High School students spend the end of their school day on Wednesday preparing to install a fabricated gate fence to ensure security at the agriculture department. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Turlock High School Agriculture Department has various patios and open spaces for students to perform hands-on activities, with students and teachers often staying late and coming early to utilize tools. This freedom has, unfortunately, come at a cost as the department has faced its fifth theft since the summer.

On Saturday, the THS Agriculture Department discovered that wiring on several trailers had been cut and taken, along with 12 small engines from an outside container and five tool boxes. The theft is thought to have occurred Thursday or Friday night. The 12 small engines that were taken are worth $5,000 and may impede the school's ability to provide hands-on courses to the students who work on the engines in class every other year.

“It’s not a new thing as far as the Ag Department being a victim of theft, it’s been a fairly constant issue over the past year and a half,” said THS Principal Marie Peterson. 

Many materials and tools are left outside or locked in exterior containers due to lack of space in the shop, which has caused security issues for the department when school is not in session. Other thefts in the past year include a student’s State Fair barbecue project, $500 worth of tools from the Environmental Horticulture class, items from the exterior container over the summer, as well as vehicle vandalism. It is not clear if the most recent theft is related to the other incidents,  though police have been able to identify suspects in the previous cases, according to school officials.

Several Ag Department teachers and staff canvassed the local flea market and have been in touch with recyclers and have since discovered connections between the stolen materials, but no official lead has been made. The school intends to continue to place posts on Campus Way to block vehicles driving through campus during nights and weekends and aims to improve current security cameras to implement more extensive surveillance.

“The area is fairly well known in the community and we know that a lot of people drive through here and we are trying to protect this area, we can’t afford to wait anymore,” said Peterson.

The increase in thefts has caused the school to endow Ag Department Chair Chad Russell with $5,000 to fabricate a fence which he and students began building on Wednesday. The fence will be a welded gate fence that will not impede student foot traffic in the area during the day and can be locked to provide stronger security at night. Russell and his students will commit their time over Thanksgiving weekend and hopefully complete the project by Monday.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Crimestoppers through the Turlock Police Department or call Turlock High School at 667-2055.