Catalytic converters stolen off school buses in Belleville

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 10:53 AM CST
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BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOV) - Bus drivers and Belleville School District 201 got some unwelcome news on Friday morning. Around 17 catalytic converters are missing from smaller school buses, apparently taken from their bus depot.

“We have had smaller incidents over the years but nothing of this magnitude,” said Belleville 201 Superintendent Brian Mentzer.

Mentzer said their fleet contains over 200 school buses, some to help out smaller school districts, and the theft caused quick changes this morning to get kids to class.

“So it impacted a specific segment of the fleet, so we did some work this morning combining some routes, but we were able to get all the students to school,” said Mentzer.

The district is currently processing how the catalytic converters were removed and doesn’t know the replacement cost yet. But in the end, the taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

“Obviously it’s troubling, anytime you’re dealing with the public’s money you hate to see a situation like this where we’re going to have to cover the cost of these repairs,” said Mentzer.

Belleville Police confirmed they are investigating but can’t say much at this time.

One neighbor showed News 4 mud tracks on the bike trail behind the bus depot and pointed to an opening in the brush that would lead someone to the bus depot fence. Police also have surveillance video from the site.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in the Metro East. Collinsville Police tell News 4 that four catalytic converters were taken off school buses there in 2021 in one incident. Another four and five were swiped in 2019.

A bill passed in Illinois last year aims to curb the problem by requiring more documentation of those selling catalytic converters. That includes requiring license plate information and a photo of the seller.

It also bans cash payments for catalytic converters for any purchase over $100.

Matt Jany, Director of the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force, said he believes that law has already helped the issue, but said it still comes and goes.