School Faces $70,000 Damages After Catalytic Converters Stolen From Buses

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Car damage and theft is no new problem, but the theft of one particular bit of machinery has recently been on the rise. Car insurance companies report that claims for catalytic converter theft have been up drastically during the pandemic.
One school district in Oregon has been seriously impacted by this issue. On September 11, thieves caused $70,000 worth of damages by cutting out catalytic converters from school buses, as reported by Jalopnik.
Three parked yellow buses
Thieves continue to target catalytic converters on vehicles.

How were the catalytic converters stolen?

The buses, belonging to the Reynolds School District in Oregon, were stored in a protected transportation lot, surrounded by high fencing and security cameras.
However, the thieves were able to get over the fences with enough tools and supplies to nab the converters and get out before they were caught. They also managed to stay mostly out of sight from the cameras, so there aren’t many clues to find who did it.
In total, 19 buses had converters stolen. The converters can be accessed under the vehicles and are usually secured by bolts or welding work. With the right gear, they can be sawed through quickly. Once the thieves were past the fence, the buses were relatively vulnerable targets.
Other school districts have suffered the same problem, and likely for the same reason. Catalytic converters are lucrative items to steal, and areas with large numbers of unsupervised, parked vehicles are attractive to thieves.

Why do people want to steal catalytic converters?

Catalytic converters have become a popular target of theft due to ease of access and the precious metals they contain. These metals, including rhodium, palladium, and even platinum, help the converter gather pollutants to reduce exhaust emissions. Selling the converters can make people anywhere from $50 to up to $250, and often more if they’re from electric vehicles.
The thieves likely targeted the buses because they’re elevated, giving them more ground clearance, and making it even easier to slip under and grab the converters.
Cars and other vehicles can still function without catalytic converters, but it isn’t pretty. Most cars will start emitting a loud, annoying revving sound. Driving without a converter can also damage other parts of your car and cause it to reach illegal emissions levels.

What will happen to the district’s buses?

Thankfully for the school district, the buses were insured and will be taken care of, but it may take a while due to the current parts shortage. In the meantime, the school will borrow other buses from neighboring districts.
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