8 On Your Side tracks missing, stolen items from local schools

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In schools all over the Bay area, items like laptop computers, musical instruments and even a riding lawn mower all vanished—without a trace.

“Doesn’t matter if it’s old, doesn’t matter if it’s new. If we purchased it or if it was donated we need to know where it is and keep track of it,” Hillsborough County School District property control manager Jeff Robison said.

Each year, school districts list equipment that disappears. Some things are misplaced. Other stuff is stolen. A few items are simply forgotten.

“Sometimes it shows up—maybe a year later,” Robison said. “Sometimes it never shows up.”

8 On Your Side checked with local school districts and found missing items aren’t unique to one district over the others.

In Hillsborough County, dozens of items vanished over a three-month period. Documents show nearly $50,000 in equipment disappeared from April to June of 2016.

“I think they should probably just do a better job of calculating everything,” said resident Ciara Brown.

Officials try.

There are more than 50,000 laptop computers in the Hillsborough County School District. Each is either engraved or labeled with contact information just in case the item is lost.

Other safeguards are in place—in most local districts—including a system to check out items. But, things still disappear.

In Pinellas County, there were nearly $200,000 in missing items over two years, documents show.

The Pasco County School District sent 8 On Your Side paperwork that shows items originally priced at $850,000 were reported missing or lost between 2014 and 2015.

8 On Your Side wanted to know what school officials do to protect your tax dollars.

So, we went to Robison, who tells us his office prepares a list of missing items every quarter for the School Board and must explain what’s being done to recover the items to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“They demand to know what’s missing, if we can’t find it,” Robison said.

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