Thieves steal pair of school buses from district compound

Published: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 9, 2013 at 4:52 p.m.

Burglars with an unusual taste in vehicles broke into a fenced area near Hawthorne High School overnight and escaped with two full-sized yellow school buses, authorities said on Monday.

At around 5 a.m. Monday, Alachua County Public Schools employees noticed the two buses were missing from the bus compound outside the school at 21403 SE 69th Ave., Alachua County Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Todd Kelly said.

The buses are flat-front style vehicles numbered 2804 and 2703, with Florida tags 239578 and TC4561. They are 2008 and 2009 models and are estimated to be worth $90,000 each, Kelly said.

The burglars, who cut through a chain-link fence on the east side of the compound, somehow managed to get the buses started, he said, noting that no keys were left in the buses.

As for why anyone might want to steal such a large and noticeable vehicle, Kelly suggested the thieves might be interested in cutting the buses into parts for shipment overseas.

“There’s somewhat of a trend occurring in the state,” he noted. “There were two buses in Flagler County stolen in a similar manner on July 17.”

In that theft, surveillance video captured a white sedan leaving the scene. Kelly said investigators looking into the Alachua County case so far have not determined if there is any video footage available.

Kelly noted that law enforcement officials also must consider other potential uses, such as terrorist activity, for the stolen buses.

“No one gives a second thought to a school bus rolling down the street. It’s hiding in plain sight,’’ he said. “It’s not that odd to see buses from other counties at all times of the day or night with students going to football games or field trips.’’

Anyone with information about the thefts may contact the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office at 955-1818.

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