AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Austintown Local Schools operated on a 2-hour delay Monday.
Superintendent David Cappuzzello said someone stole 14 catalytic converters from them over the weekend. He said 11 transportation vehicles were impacted, costing the district between $30,000 to $35,000.
All 11 run on liquid propane and the converters for those models weigh less and are easier to remove than others.
Transportation issues had to be worked out in light of the theft, which prompted the delay.
“We had Boardman step up right away then they heard – gave us five of their buses,” Cappuzzello said.
While work was being done to replace the catalytic converters on the buses, Austintown police were reviewing surveillance video to see if they can identify any suspects.
“The problem is the time frame over the weekend. You are talking 72 hours,” said Det. Sg. Shawn Hevener.
Although this is the first time the school district has been targeted by converter thieves, police say they’ve seen a number of cases over the years with it frequently happening over long weekends
Detectives say thieves may trade converters for drugs but many end up on the black market.
“Due to the precious metals inside the catalytic converters, some vehicles may have more than one converter,” Hevener said.
Authorities are now looking to see if this theft is tied to a similar one a week ago in the Cleveland area where 35 school buses were damaged.
In the meantime, the district is looking to increase the security around its fleet.
“We were locked up, fenced-in and how we have a second plan that we need to do to protect these buses a little bit more,” Cappuzzello said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Austintown Police Department.