by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - School officials in Gaston County are reviewing their security procedures after police said a woman stole a purse from an elementary school office while posing as a parent.
Gaston County Police are searching for Crystal Anderson, who they said walked into W.A. Bess Elementary School Monday morning and pretended to be a student's mother.
"Monday was an awards day at the school so it was not your typical day at school. Because of that, they had hundreds of parents coming in," said Sgt. Josh Hamlin.
Officials said during normal school days, parents must swipe a driver's license to log their information into the school's system.
Parents only had to sign a name at the front office and wear a name badge because of the awards activities at W.A. Bess on Monday, investigators said.
"Yes, that's obviously a potential security risk but that's one of those things that elementary schools have been doing for years," Hamlin said.
Police said Anderson grabbed a purse from the office, left the school and emptied it of cash and credit cards, then walked back in to return it.
"She was pretending to be a good Samaritan and told them, ‘I just found this purse out in the parking lot,’" Hamlin said.
Investigators learned Anderson's identity after a crime analyst reviewing surveillance video from the school recognized Anderson's face from a recent mug shot taken after a larceny arrest.
Police obtained warrants for her arrest and are asking for the public's help in locating Anderson.
Family members of students told Channel 9 the news of someone posing as a parent and moving so freely through the school was worrisome.
"She could have been trying to kidnap a kid -- anything," said Brandon McDonald, whose niece attends W.A. Bass.
"It definitely worries me. I live across the street from the school so if they are brave enough to go in the school, they're brave enough to go in my house," McDonald said.
School officials said they working with the Police Department as the investigation continues and are reviewing safety procedures.