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Electronic security system too costly for FUSD

Sun Staff Reporter

01/19/2005 - Flagstaff Unified School District will take its chances on future vandalism without a high-tech security system.
"To properly wire every window and door and then manage a fully electronic system is very costly and we're not in a position (to do that)," said George Ritchie, director of finance and planning.

Ritchie estimates it could cost upward of $100,000 per building to install a comprehensive security system. With 20 buildings in the district, it could cost about $2 million.

The district's general liability insurance costs $105,000, with a $10,000 deductible per incident. The district could go a less expensive route at about $20,000 per building with video at select locations, Ritchie said. That could cost the district about $400,000.

Flagstaff High School spent about $10,000 for video surveillance after the incidences of theft and vandalism last school year, Ritchie said. The most recent vandalism at Coconino High School over the Christmas holiday resulted in damage of up to $50,000, some of which will likely be recovered from the parents of the accused upon conviction (see related story).

Part of the reason the buildings are so costly to equip is that they were built during a time when security was not as much a concern, so attention was not paid to the number of entries and exits. "We're all for security and protecting our valuable assets," board member Janet Kramer said. But people need to respect the school's property, which is the community's property, Kramer said.

The district could "nibble away" at a security system by installing it in pieces, Ritchie said. Each school has some level of security in place, either for specific rooms, such as computer labs, or surveillance, like at Flagstaff High School. But the cost of security and surveillance systems is so great that it should not be left up to the individual school, Ritchie said. "The district has to help because the school's discretionary fund is not large enough," he said.

Some schools have had equipment and labor donated to install security components, Ritchie said. The district could do more to secure its buildings, but it's a balancing act with funding the district's other needs, board member Elaine Morrison said. "We can hire a teacher or install a security system," Morrison said.

It's a matter of whether people want a classroom with a teacher in it or a classroom with security cameras monitoring the students, she said. Additionally, there is the cost of hiring someone to monitor the security system, she said.

Over the winter break, four boys were caught for vandalizing CHS. They caused $30,000 to $50,000 in damage as estimated by the CHS principal Dave Roth.

The boys, between 10 and 14 years old, are charged with aggravated criminal damage and burglary. There was damage to carpet, computers, televisions, microwaves, blackboards, windows, an aquarium, small animals were killed and numerous rooms were ransacked and teachers' personal items were broken.

Roth, Ritchie and an adjuster from the insurance company walked through the school Monday. No estimate from the insurance company is yet available. The break-in at CHS went undetected for so long because the boys broke a window that was not readily visible when the building was walked through during school breaks, Ritchie said.

The district has considered paying employees overtime during breaks, rather than hiring a security firm, to act as security for the buildings, Ritchie said.

The district also moved away from team cleaning with its maintenence staff because those employees have other roles in the school environment, such as providing building security and care giving, Ritchie said.

The district's insurance premiums will not increase from the CHS incident nor the FHS incident last spring because the people responsible for the vandalism were caught, Ritchie said. The district sought or will seek damages. In turn, the district will reimburse the insurance company for any money it pays out, as required by the policy, Ritchie said.

Reporter Sara Kincaid can be reached at 556-2250 or

Forever at mercy of crime

`How quickly your whole world can change'

David Porter

Mar 19, 2005 - Bobbie Boyer's life will never be the same again. On Aug. 31, 2004, her middle child -- daughter Susan Jane Perkins -- was kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint and mortally injured in Altamonte Springs. The assailant remains on the loose.

So often when we hear of crime victims, we think of the person who was actually assaulted. But we don't think about the family they left behind.

"People look at me and think that I look all right and sound all right. But I'm not," said Boyer, who works as a medical assistant for a cardiologist group. "I don't think most people understand how quickly your whole world can change," Boyer said.

Boyer said that Aug. 31 seemed like a routine day. She worked a little late that day, before hurrying home to Longwood to take care of routine household chores. Another hurricane was on the way to Florida, so she decided to dash out to a hardware store that night to get some more flashlights.

What Boyer had no way of knowing was that a short distance away, a series of events was about to begin that would end with her daughter's death.

The official police report said that about 8:30 p.m. Susan Perkins was helping her friend Robin Barber at a day spa on Maitland Avenue, just north of the Orange County line. Barber, who was working in the back office, owns the business. Barber said she heard Perkins call her name and came out to check. She was shocked to find a man wearing a ski mask with a rifle pointed at Perkins' head.

The gunman demanded money. Perkins gave him cash. Then he forced both women to empty their purses. Next he ordered them to take him to an ATM, so they could withdraw more cash to give him. They left in Perkins' 2001 red Ford Focus and ended up at the Washington Mutual Bank on State Road 436, across from the Altamonte Mall, where $300 was withdrawn from Barber's account, and $180 from Perkins' account. Then he forced both women to squeeze into the car's trunk. Then the gunman started driving east on S.R. 436. While the car was in motion, Perkins sprung the trunk-release button. First the women tried to wave and signal other motorists. Then they decided to escape. Barber was the first to jump from the moving car. She hit the ground and rolled, then ran to a nearby business. Perkins also jumped, but her head hit the ground. The trauma to Perkins' head was severe.

After police notified the family, Boyer said she called Florida Hospital Altamonte. The staff told her Perkins was being flown by helicopter to the trauma center at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

"To this day, whenever I hear a helicopter, it's very hard on me," Boyer said.

That night the family kept a long vigil and prayed for the best. The next day at 2 p.m. Susan Jane Perkins, a mother with two sons, died.

"I want people to know," Boyer said, "that Susan was a very good person, always willing to help other people."

Those are not empty words. Susan had previously told her sister Sara that if anything ever happened to her, she wanted to be an organ donor. Her liver and kidneys are helping others today.

But Bobbie Boyer and her family still are in agony. "It's so hard for me, especially at night," Boyer said. "I know how I brought her into this world, but I don't know how she went out."

In the cold calculus of the street, it makes absolutely no sense to kidnap two women for a few hundred dollars.

The Altamonte Springs Police Department has no answers. The description the police issued is so vague it could be about anyone. The detective handling the cases said he has no strong clues to follow.

Boyer is a gentle woman. She is not bitter. However, she has a warning for those of us who have not experienced the heartache her family is enduring. She showed me a quote from a book authored by America's Most Wanted host, John Walsh, who lost a son to a kidnapper. Walsh wrote: "There are people out there who do terrible harm to others without ever considering the consequences. And no matter how much you think you're prepared for it, no matter what you've done with your life in the past and what you hope to accomplish in the future, you are still vulnerable. You are at the mercy of these people."

Very scary, but true.

Two pieces of advice: If you know anything about this crime, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.

Hug your family and cherish every moment with them.

Reach David Porter at, or at 407-420-5533



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