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Catalytic converters stolen off 43 Riverside Unified buses – Press-Enterprise


Catalytic converters were stolen over the Thanksgiving holiday off 43 school buses that transport Riverside Unified School District students — most with special needs — upsetting the transportation schedule, a district official said.

The crime is one of the latest in a rash of such thefts nationwide by people who hope to cash in on the precious metals contained in the devices — platinum and rhodium — by selling them on the illicit market. Thieves need only three minutes and basic tools to remove the device from the bottom of a vehicle.

The device is attached to the exhaust system and converts harmful emissions into vapor or carbon dioxide. A vehicle can operate without a converter, but the engine will be exceptionally loud, run roughly and accelerate unevenly.

The buses are owned by First Student and were being stored at the facility at 111 Main St. in Jurupa Valley, just north of Riverside. Employees there noticed the thefts Monday morning, Nov. 29, Jen Biddinger, a First Student spokesperson, said in an email. The company told the school district, parents and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department of the thefts. Deputies did not immediately respond to a request for information about the case on Tuesday.

First Student brought in additional buses and doubled up on some routes, Riverside Unified Deputy Superintendent Tim Walker said in an interview. Some parents chose to drive their students to school, he said.

First Student expects to have the converters replaced by Wednesday and resume a normal schedule on Thursday, Biddinger said.

First Student will pay for replacing the converters, Walker said. A converter can cost more than $2,000.

Biddinger did not respond to questions Tuesday about security at the bus yard.

The Riverside Police Department offers these tips for preventing converter theft:

• Park in a well-lit area or garage.

• Engrave the vehicle’s VIN on the converter. That might alert a scrap dealer that it was stolen.

•  Have a mechanic weld the converter to the vehicle frame.

• Calibrate the car alarm to detect vibrations if the converter is tampered with.

•  Install a converter protection device.



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