Officials at a loss to explain theft of school buses


Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.

Investigators remained stumped on Tuesday about who made off with two Alachua County school buses from a locked parking lot and why anyone would want to steal them in the first place.

The buses were discovered missing early Monday morning from a bus compound at Hawthorne High School, 21403 SE 69th Ave. Burglars apparently gained access by cutting through a metal fence. There were no keys in the buses.

Alachua County sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey said Tuesday that local officials are comparing notes with investigators around the state and in Georgia who are looking into similar thefts there.

"There have been 11 from Florida and Georgia since 2012, and none have been recovered," he said.

Two were taken in Orange County in February 2012; three from Camden County, Ga.; two from Hillsborough County; two from Flagler County in July; and the two this week in Alachua County, Forgey said.

Officials are at a loss to explain why school buses have become hot targets for thieves. Speculation centers on the thieves either sending the buses, valued at between $60,000 and $90,000, overseas or cutting them up for parts.

Forgey said that investigators have been checking with ports around the state for any indication of buses being shipped out, but so far have turned up nothing.

Neither of the Alachua County buses had a GPS tracker on them, he said. They did have video cameras for use when the buses are moving, but the tapes would have to be manually removed or downloaded from the cameras.

The vehicles are numbered 2804 and TC4561. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff's Office at 955-1818.

The loss of the buses has not interrupted bus service, said Jackie Johnson, school district spokeswoman.

"On any given day, we have nine or 10 buses out for regular maintenance or that break down," she said. "With a fleet of 225 buses, we have spares."

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