Metro school buses’ catalytic converters stolen, following national trend

More than 10 school buses in the metro had their catalytic converters stolen over the holiday weekend — leading to a delay on Monday morning for students and following a national trend.

According to the Brooklyn Park Police Department (BPPD), the catalytic converters were stolen sometime between late Wednesday afternoon and Monday morning. Inspector Elliot Faust with the BPPD feels it was a crime of opportunity while no one was around.

“I think the fact that [buses are] set a little bit higher off the ground gives those thieves better access to what they’re looking for,” Inspector Faust added. “We’ve seen that as a pattern time and time again, [they’re] looking for the low hanging fruit, they’re looking for something that’s easy.”

Osseo Area Schools told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that 11 buses, owned by First Student and servicing their schools, had catalytic converters stolen.

Catalytic converters help reduce airborne pollutants and have been a hot target for thieves for years now. From the beginning of the year to mid-November, Brooklyn Park police say there were 327 catalytic converters stolen in the city — that’s an average of more than one-a-day.

This is not just a metro, or even Minnesota, issue — according to State Farm, the largest insurer of automobiles in the U.S., claims data shows that between July 2021 and June 2022 catalytic converter theft grew 109% nationally, in terms of the number of claims filed, compared to the previous 12 months.

As for metro school buses getting targeted, that too follows a national trend. In October, the National School Transportation Association held a webinar to discuss the issue and discuss ways to prevent the catalytic converters from getting stolen.

Some of those steps include marking the auto part, stamping the vehicle’s vin number into it, and even creating a cage to stop it from getting stolen.

Those preventative measures have all been taken at transmission auto shop TSI Automotive, in Brooklyn Park. General manager, Chris Skoog, says catalytic converter replacements are very common at his shop.

“We see, probably in a given month, five to six in [this shop] alone,” Skoog said. “We have to replace some costing in excess of $2,000.”

Skoog, along with BPPD, say one of the best things people can do is call 911 if they see something suspicious. The week before the school buses got hit, BPPD posted a public service announcement highlighting the importance of calling them. The post has a video, taken from someone looking out into a parking lot, that shows people stealing a catalytic converter from over the summer.