Sometime around dawn on Friday morning, February 1, burglars apparently climbed through the latch-able window and into the office of The Forge, Santa Barbara High’s student newspaper. The thieves stole five computers, a printer, and a camera, explained the paper’s editor-in-chief Daniel Langhorne.
Langhorne, who is also an intern at the Independent, estimated that the stolen goods were worth between $10,000 and $20,000 and called the break-in suspicious because on Monday, two computers were stolen from the office next door, where the school’s yearbook staff works. But there were no signs of forced entry there, according to Langhorne, whereas The Forge‘s doors were clearly locked. “It’s just kind of shady for two robberies to happen like that in one week,” said Langhorne, “and they’re right next to each other.”
Langhorne said he was in the offices until 6 p.m. or so on Thursday, watching the Democratic debates. He believes that the break-in was around 5:30 a.m. because the system that automatically routes emails every five minutes stopped working then. The thieves stole the paper’s central computer, which served as its hub, thereby blocking the usage of the few computers that remain. Langhorne said that struck him as suspicious as well. “Whoever did this had some intimate knowledge of how The Forge works,” said Langhorne, whose personal camera was taken. When asked if they had been covering anything that would motivate a break-in, all Langhorne could think of was their coverage of the tennis coach charged with giving drugs and alcohol to his team. But overall, he explained, “We’re not completely scared of stepping on any toes, but we’re not usually out for blood.”
Publishing since 1914, The Forge is the second-oldest student paper in the state, and employs a staff of more than 20 students.
“It’s a huge campus and [we] don’t have a lot of support from the school district in terms of security,” said Langhorne. He noted that while the school’s media arts and video production departments are housed in the main building and lock up all their equipment, the newspaper and yearbook offices are in the auxiliary buildings on Canon Perdido Street and are less secure. In fact, Langhorne said that the school’s administration had recently been wanting to take deadbolt locks off of some of the doors to easier access. “But it’s pretty evident we need those protections to keep this from happening,” said Langhorne.
Nonetheless, Langhorne said he believes the overworked, underfunded administration is doing everything they can to solve the crime. The cops have already taken fingerprints, and the school has already ordered five replacement computers. “But how do you replace hours of work?” asked Langhorne, who’s been covering the film festival for the past week, taking photos of all the stars. “I waited for hours in some cases, so how do you replace those pictures?”
He learned about the break-in from his photo editor Zac Estrada (also a former Indy intern), who called him in class on Friday. “It was so demoralizing,” said Langhorne. “I’ve been working long hours on the film festival stuff, and you can’t replace a lot of the pictures.” He said they’re getting help from San Marcos High’s newspaper to fill that void, and said that they are currently taking steps to secure their offices as well. “You don’t think it’s going to happen to you until it does,” said Langhorne, “and then there’s nothing like it.”