School Bus Thefts

Title: School Bus Radio Thefts
 July 2005
 California Department of Education 

Abstract: In the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Bulletin dated March 23, 2005, district superintendents were informed of a series of school bus two-way radio thefts that were currently being perpetrated throughout California. As of July 20, these thefts continue to occur. Currently, more than 2,000 school bus digital two-way radios have been stolen.

The California Department of Justice is about to begin a new phase in the investigation in an effort to apprehend the perpetrators of these thefts. In order to proceed, it is necessary for the justice department to compile a list of California school districts that use digital programmable two-way radios in their school buses.

The California Department of Education is requesting district superintendents to have their school transportation staff contact the Office of School Transportation at 916-375-7100 and request a questionnaire on school bus radio use. Staff from the office will fax a simple one-page questionnaire to the district transportation office and compile the responses. This information will then be forwarded to the Department of Justice in an effort to help bring an end to these ongoing thefts (California Department of Education, 2005)

Title: School Bus Thefts Concern Houston Authorities
Date: August 27, 2007
National Terror Alert (DHS)

Abstract: Houston Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Division, the FBI and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are all concerned about a large number of school buses that have been stolen in the Houston area over the last several months.

An 11 News investigation uncovered that 17 large, yellow school buses were stolen recently from various charter schools, business schools and private bus companies. Not one has disappeared from HISD.

Most, if not all, were taken from locations on Houston’s north side. One off west Tidwell, another from the Lopez bus company off Melrose and Berry Street.

Timothy Williams is the superintendent at the High School for Business.

“We were going to park them over there inside the gate. Until we could get a gate around the facility, but we really didn’t think that was going to be a problem,” said the charter school’s superintendent.

While it is important to point out that there is no known threat, HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Division mentioned in a recent e-mail that these school bus thefts are a homeland security concern.

One detective told 11 News a bus might have been stolen and taken across the border to Mexico.

Nevertheless, since the Sept. 11 attacks the thought of terrorists targeting children has certainly been discussed by the Department of Homeland Security. And that is why finding out what happened to these buses is very important.

Published reports in 2004 said that the U.S. Military found information in Iraq pertaining to U.S. schools.

Reportedly, there have been hundreds of thefts of school bus radios in the United States.

With all that being said, 11 News was reminded Monday by law enforcement officials that school buses remain one of the safest ways to get to and from school. In fact, nationwide, school buses transport nearly 24 million kids to school daily.

And bus drivers all around the country are being trained regularly to look out for suspicious people and activities (National Terror Alert (DHS), 2007).

Title: Stolen Metro School Bus Found In Arkansas
Date: December 13, 2011
News 2

Abstract: A stolen Metro school bus was found early Tuesday morning just outside of West Memphis, Arkansas, after it was taken from a church parking lot in Bellevue overnight.

Keith Phillips, Director of Transportation for Metro Schools, told Nashville's News 2 the bus' driver reported the vehicle missing after she went to New Beginnings Church on George E. Horn Drive to pick it up.

Officials said the district used the vehicle's GPS system to track the bus to the parking lot of an abandoned business just off Interstate 40 in Crittenden County, seven miles west of West Memphis.

"We were able to track that bus by the number [and] locate it in West Memphis, Arkansas," Olivia Brown with Metro schools said, adding," We were able to share that information with police and that allowed them to recover the bus there in West Memphis."

The bus was recovered around 8 a.m.

Mike Callender, chief investigator with the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office, said the bus was not damaged although there was some paint sprayed on the camera lenses.

Metro school officials planned to drive to Arkansas to pickup the bus.

West Memphis, Arkansas is located 10 miles west of Memphis, just across the Mississippi River.

School officials said they are still unsure how the thieves started the bus, but are grateful to that all Metro school buses are equipped with GPS units for very reasons like what happened overnight Monday.

"We use [the GPS systems] on a daily basis.  [The systems] help us track our buses that are running their routes from the morning to the afternoon, to identify whether or not they are running behind schedule [and] to help drivers that may be substitute drivers if they have questions about the route that they're running. It's also a safety feature," Brown said.

Phillips said another school bus was dispatched to the driver in Nashville and she was able to pickup her students as scheduled (News 2, 2011).

Title: Three School Buses Stolen from Kingsland Lot
January 20, 2012
FCN News

Three school buses worth about $300,000 were apparently stolen from their parking lot over the long weekend.

According to Kingsland Police Department Lt. Todd Tetterton, school employees noticed the three buses were gone upon returning Wednesday from the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Tetterton said the three all are painted with the standard school bus color scheme: yellow with white roofs and strobe lights on top.

The buses, made in 2004, 2008 and 2012, are marked with Camden County identification along the sides.

Two of the missing buses are "flat-fronted," Tetterton said, like a transit bus, and the third has a standard truck-like front.

Tetterton said the buses were apparently taken from the bus depot adjacent to Camden County High School, where buses are parked when not in use and for fueling and maintenance (FCN News, 2012).

Title: School Bus Thefts Mystify Police In Jefferson And St. Louis Counties
January 20, 2012
St. Louis Today

When one school bus disappeared, police wondered who would steal it. Then another went missing, and another, until the total reached eight and the mystery deepened.

Were they sold for scrap metal? Stripped for parts? Converted into hunting cabins? Taken out of the country?

Whatever the explanation, at least one full-size regulation yellow bus has disappeared each month since September — plus one in May — from five locations in south St. Louis County or Jefferson County.

None of the buses has been found.

"Why would you take a school bus, and where do you hide a school bus?" asked Jefferson County sheriff's Capt. Ron Arnhart, speaking for vexed investigators.

"It's not your usual stolen vehicle," said Sgt. Tom Naughton of the St. Louis County police Auto Crime Unit. "Most vehicles come up recovered, and not having these school buses surface anywhere is unusual too."

The FBI was notified, Naughton said, which is standard when a particularly large vehicle — or one that a terrorist might use for access to a sensitive area, such as a firetruck or school bus — is taken.

"We have not received any information back from them about national concerns, and this appears to be isolated," he said.

Officials said that new, each bus is worth about $60,000.

Exactly when these were stolen is hard to pinpoint because they went missing on weekends or when school was otherwise not in session. The victims were two parochial schools, a public school and two locations belonging to a company that contracts for transportation.

Lutheran South High School expects to spend about $10,000 — that wasn't in its budget — to replace the one it lost, which was about 10 years old.

"We came in on a Monday morning and there were four buses instead of five," said Principal Brian Ryherd. "It was just gone. ... It's not a horrifying expense, but it's just another problem. I don't know what someone would do with an old school bus."

Lutheran South uses the buses to take students to extracurricular activities, such as basketball, wrestling and swimming tournaments. The missing one was the only handicapped-accessible bus. "We don't have any kids that need it at the moment, but it is certainly nice to have," Ryherd said.

The four buses stolen from First Student's lot in St. Louis County were retired and not in use, so there was no impact to students, said Jen Biddinger, a spokeswoman for the private contractor.

"The thefts are highly unusual, and not something we are seeing companywide, but I am told it is a real problem in the Affton area," Biddinger said. "We have increased security at the site."

Naughton said St. Louis County police had stepped up patrols as well.

"When the break in this case comes, we'll be able to clean them all up because it's such an odd thing to steal," he said. "It's a challenge to investigate, but we're working every angle we can work."

The most recent theft is so far the only one at least partially caught on video. It just shows a bus driving away from the Windsor school bus lot in Imperial about 3 a.m. Saturday.

In that case, Jefferson County deputies believe the thieves used bolt cutters to sever chains securing the gates and then fastened them again with new padlocks.

"By making it look like everything is OK and not having a missing chain, it might have taken an officer longer to detect," Arnhart explained. The locks and chains are being processed for DNA.

Naughton said several parts believed to have come from a school bus turned up in a scrap yard in Washington County but could not be linked to the missing vehicles.

"The problem is, a lot of these parts are interchangeable," he said. "They are International and Blue Bird models. International front ends are interchangeable with International trucks."

Anyone with information is asked to contact St. Louis County police Detective Kevin Funston at 314-615-8622 or the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 636-797-5515 (St. Louis Today, 2012).

Title: Three Camden County Florida School Buses Stolen
January 21, 2012
Private Officer

Several questions are perplexing investigators about the theft of three school buses in Camden County.

How do thieves steal three school buses? How do they hide them? And what are they going to do with them?

When school officials returned this week after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, they found three buses missing from the Camden County Schools bus yard.

Officials said they went immediately to a security camera to find out what happened. Surveillance video shows one of the buses being driven off the lot last Friday. Investigators did not want to release the video because they said there are some clues on it that they don't want the public to see.

"A car drives in and then drives back out with three busses," said Mark Stewart, of Camden County Schools. "So, undoubtedly, they brought three people with them."

Investigators believe the thieves hotwired the buses. They're just trying to figure out why.

"We have a couple of theories and motives," said Richard Sapp, of the Kingsland Police Department. "We believe they may be scrapping them for metal and get the money for them or ship them overseas."

School officials said they have another theory about what the crooks have in mind.

"When we auction off buses in the summer, we know some get sold for scrap, but some also get sold and transported to South America or overseas where they use them," Stewart said. "Unfortunately, these were very good buses and not ones we would typically auction."

The buses were insured, so replacing them is not the problem.

It's difficult to hide a yellow school bus. There was one report that they were seen Friday night on Interstate 95 heading south near Fernandina Beach. But that's where the clues stop.

Police are getting some help from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

"We are really not sure what the motive could be for using these school busses," Sapp said of why Homeland Security is involved. "We are hoping it's just to use it for scrap metal and get the money out of it. We are just not sure, and we want to be on the safe side."

Camden County school officials said they have not had this happen before, although they said it has happened in neighboring counties (Private Officer, 2012).

Title: Man In Stolen School Bus Leads Police On Highway Pursuit
March 11, 2012
Jalopnik News

A man in an stolen School Bus lead Police on a probably not very high speed chase down Interstate 40 in New Mexico yesterday. After receiving calls of a school bus driving erratically early yesterday morning police in Grants, NM tracked down the offending vehicle around 6am.

When the driver of the Bus, 27 year old Nathaniel Shipman, refused to stop they began one of the more bizarre police chases we've ever heard of. As soon as Shipman got on Interstate 40, NM State Police joined the pursuit. After two rounds of spike strips and some contact with a cruiser, Police officers were finally successful in bringing the School Bus to a stop.

According to local news station KOAT 7, the School Bus had been stolen on Thursday night in Albuquerque. The Bus Company didn't realize it was missing because "another bus was stuck in a ditch" and "They thought the bus in the ditch was the only attempted theft." Who knew School Buses were such a hot target for New Mexican thieves?

Thankfully no innocent bystanders were injured during Shipman's highway rampage, but the same cannot be said for the suspected bus thief. After repeatedly ignoring police commands Shipman was shot by a Sherrif's Deputy three times. He was then taken to the University of New Mexico Medical Hospital where his current condition is unknown.

This was hardly Shipman's first brush with crime. He has been arrested several times in the past few years for serious crimes as well as the significantly more humorous accusations of "fighting with a mailbox in a stranger's yard, hitting a vehicle and making snow angels in the gravel" (Jalopnik News, 2012).

Title: School Bus Driver, Arrested For Theft, Intended To Use Bus As Getaway Vehicle
September 24, 2012

On Monday, an on-duty school bus driver in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was arrested and charged with first-degree retail fraud after she was caught trying to shoplift over $500 worth of clothing from a department store.

Roseanne Stacho, a 53-year-old school bus driver, parked her bus in the parking lot of an upscale outdoor shopping center in Rochester Hills before entering Parisian, a clothing store for men and women. Her attempt to steal over $500 worth of both male and female clothing was foiled, and Stacho was arrested before she could return to the bus.

Stacho made the stop during her route to a local high school, where she was due to pick up students after school.

Major Robert Smith, of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, said store employees believed that it wasn't Stacho's first time at Parisian, and they watched her closely as she entered a dressing room with an empty bag and a cart full of clothes.

When she exited, the cart was empty and the bag was full. Stacho pleaded guilty to the same charge in May 2012.

She was released on a $10,000 personal bond (Examiner, 2012).

Title: Jefferson County Schools Bus Stolen From Driver's Home
October 18, 2012

The Jefferson County Sheriff is looking for the person or people who stole a school bus from a bus driver's home Wednesday night.

Jefferson County Schools bus driver Robert Ellis said he noticed the bus, #46, missing Thursday morning when he went outside to start his route.

Ellis reported the theft and continued his route using a spare school bus.

Sheriff Bud McCoig said the bus was taken from Ellis' home on R.H. Ellis Road in Dandridge between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

The school system owns the buses, but allow drivers to take them home.

Ellis told officials the keys were not in the ignition, but a set of spare keys had been hidden on the bus.

The bus was spotted after 9:00 p.m. behind a gas station near Exit 415.

Officials later located the bus about two miles from Ellis' home. They believe the bus was taken for a joyride and then abandoned (WATE News, 2012).

Title: Crimetracker - School Bus Battery Thefts
October 23, 2012

Buses in one Kansas school district were stopped in their tracks after thieves decided to break into the bus yard. It happened not once, but twice in Douglass.

Douglass school district transportation director Robert Young and his bus drivers felt helpless that early morning in April when three of their buses wouldn’t start. Someone had stolen the batteries.

"He hauls fifty kids on the bus, scrambling around, trying to find a battery to fit the bus,” says Young. “The kids were late to school."

Four months later, in August, the thieves struck again, stealing more batteries and shutting down two buses.

“People are desperate,” says Douglass School Superintendent Rob Reynolds.

"I don't understand it, don't understand it,” says Douglass bus driver Sarah Foster. “Why someone would want to tear up something that's not theirs; no excuse for it."

The school district has spent thousands of dollars on security and lighting for the bus yard, hoping to keep thieves from hitting again. And Douglass school leaders have also spent precious money to replace the stolen batteries.

Law enforcement agencies are working with local recycling stores, keeping a close eye out for stolen batteries.

If there’s crime happening in your neighborhood that you’d like us to feature in Crimetracker, go to to submit a story, track crime in your neighborhood and learn prevention tips (KAKE News, 2012).

Title: School Officials Request Help From Parents After Ripley Bus Radio Thefts
Date: December 6, 2012
Source: WSAZ

Abstract: It's been two weeks since more than two dozen radios were stolen from Ripley school buses, and Jackson County school officials say they're taking extra precautions to make sure kids get home safely.

"It puts you on edge every evening, you just kind of [think,] what's going to happen this evening?'" assistant superintendent Dave Moore said.

Moore is in charge of transportation and said his job has been a lot harder since thieves ripped the radios out of the buses. The two-way Kenwood radios allowed bus drivers to communicate with law enforcement.

Now, officials are asking parents to do their part to ensure everything goes smoothly with their kids' transportation. They say elementary school parents need to wait for their kids at the bus stops or pick them up from school to avoid any mishaps.

"Usually if we have a parent who's not at a stop, we can radio the driver and let them know that they have to come to the stop and be there," Moore said. "But now, we have to wait until the buses come back from their runs to accomplish that." talked with parents of kids in Ripley Elementary about their reaction to the request.

"A think it's a wonderful policy," Lisa Colmer-Warner said. "We have a lot of kids who disappear and parents don't know, and I think they should be there to meet their children."

Natalie Archer diagreed. "A lot of us are single parents and we have busy schedules," I think as long as the child knows there is someone at the residence, meeting at the bus stop is a little bit extreme."

Officials say new radios have been ordered, and nine of them are expected to arrive sometime next week.

They're not sure when the others will come in, but they say they process was slowed because that type of radio is in high demand.

Police are still looking for the suspects who stole the original radios.

UPDATE: 11/25/12 @ 8:12 p.m.
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Detectives are checking with the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of trying to track down nearly two dozen stolen two-way radios.

Several school buses in Ripley had their radios ripped off and still no arrests have been made.

Police say they are checking with pawn shops in hopes of tracking them down. They are also getting help from the FCC.

The Jackson County School district had just bought and installed these special two-way radios that allowed bus drivers to talk with law enforcement officers (WSAZ, 2012).

Title: 8 School Buses Stolen, Shredded Into 'Big Pile Of Scrap'
Date: March 8, 2013
Chicago Tribune

Abstract: Eight school buses were stolen from the Far South Side overnight and driven to a salvage yard, where they were cut apart and shredded into a two-story pile of scrap, police said.

The name of the Sunrise bus company could be seen among the shards of metal at SRV Metal Scrapper, 3405 S. Lawndale Avenue, police said. Four people were taken into custody, including the owner of the company.

The 40-foot-long buses, capable of seating 75 people, were stolen sometime overnight from the bus company's yard in the 10000 block of South Torrence Avenue and were not discovered missing until this morning, police said.

The buses were all equipped with GPS tracking devices, and police were able to track "their entire movement" to the scrap yard on the West Side, police said.

When officers arrived, several people who apparently worked in the scrap yard ran into a building, police said. Officers initially apprehended one person and later took two others into custody. The owner was arrested in the afternoon.

"There was a pile of shredded school buses about two-stories high," one police official said. Some pieces were large enough that police could see the "Sunrise bus logo," the official said.

Engines and transmissions from the buses had already been cut in half, and the seats tossed in a "big pile of scrap."

Eugene Roy, commander of the police Central Investigations Unit, said the metal will be impounded as evidence. “It was unusual to see such a large-scale theft,” he said.

An employee said the bus yard had been closed around 7 p.m. Thursday. When workers arrived at 5 a.m. today, they discovered a gate open and a snapped lock. Police arrived at the scrap yard around 6 a.m.

Greg Bonnett, president and co-owner of Sunrise, said he was awakened this morning with a call from a worker that the buses had been stolen.

When the GPS signals were tracked down to the West Side, Bonnett said he expected to find 8 buses parked there. "We expected to come in and see our buses, not a mound of scrap.

"In 40 years I have never heard of anything like this," said Bonnett, 60.

Bonnett estimated his loss at a quarter of a million dollars. Four of the buses were equipped for special education students, including wheelchair lifts, he said. Four 2009 models, three were 2004 and one was a 2003.

As scrap, the buses would have been worth anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 each.

"I don't know why they would do it," said Joe Pickard, chief economist for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, D.C. "It seems like a lot of effort for not a big return. What would motivate an individual, (they're) school buses."

Scrap prices for iron and steel are relatively low right now. They bring about 18 cents per pound compared to about $3.50 per pound for copper and about 90 cents per pound for aluminum, Pickard said.

Even with the buses weighing 17,000 to 20,000 pounds, much of that would be from wiring, foam, rubber and materials from the seats, Pickard said.

But Gary Bush, who was a police officer for 32 years before he began keeping track of thefts for the institute, said  thieves will take whatever they can. "Anything that can be stolen, has been stolen," he said. "Literally anything of any value is a potential target."

Sunrise has about 260 buses, and the company was able to get buses to its schools. "No Sunrise kids missed school," Bonnett said. "Equipment is equipment. It's easy to replace" (Chicago Tribune, 2013).

Title: School Bus Stolen From Windsor Storage Lot
March 14, 2013
CTV News

Windsor police are looking for a school bus that has been stolen from a storage lot near the E.C. Row Expressway.

Police were called to 5345 Rhodes Drive Wednesday for a report of a stolen vehicle. A Sharp Bus Lines Ltd. representative told officers the bus theft was discovered on Monday.

It is described as a yellow 2006 Ford school bus. It is shorter than most buses and is wheelchair accessible. The bus has Ontario licence plates BJ8716. It also has Sharp Bus Lines Limited written on it with the numbers EV4 on both sides of the bus.

Anyone with information can call Windsor police or Crime Stoppers (CTV News, 2013).