MANCHESTER, Conn. — You've heard the reports about a rise in juvenile car thefts. Now, we’re getting reports about young people vandalizing vehicles and selling their parts for scrap.
The most recent incident involved school buses in Manchester. The DATTCO bus yard had its operational capacity greatly reduced.
Wrenches in hand, DATTCO mechanics are waiting for the arrival of an outsourced and expensive shipment of catalytic converters so they can repair their bus fleet.
"We cannot keep having buses go down," said Frank Baio, the Asst. VP of Safety and Risk Management for DATTCO.
Ten school buses are now out of service at DATTCO’s Manchester bus yard.
"It prohibits us from serving our customers and moving our student passengers each and every day. It disrupts the schedule for the schools and summer camps and after-school learning activities," explained Baio.
Police say that under the cover of darkness Wednesday, at least two vandals parked on the side of the highway adjacent to the bus yard. They hopped a six-foot chain-link fence in the woods, ran down an embankment, and used battery-powered saws to cut catalytic converters from the undercarriage of school buses.
"Were dealing with an increasingly more intelligent criminal element," said Baio.
Targeted for their precious metal scrap value, catalytic converters contain small amounts of platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Those metals are worth more than gold.
"It’s easy money," said Greg Chomko, the owner of Hartford Metal Solutions. At Chomko's business, each item is cataloged and all customer IDs are saved in their system. He says even criminals are smart enough not to take stolen items to reputable scrap yards.
"Mom and pop repair places and at that point it’s untraceable. They can sell them online. I could show you websites where they can steal them and ship them," said Chomko.
Besides keeping your vehicle in a locked garage, Chomko says the best way to deter this kind of theft is to mark your converter.
"If you paint it some odd type color. Go get some fluorescent purple or whatever and spray it because then you can identify it," said Chomko.
Painting metal also makes it less valuable.
At DATTCO, they say they are now investing in bank-level device trackers and a state-of-the-art perimeter threat detection system. They are offering a $1,000 reward for information that results in the arrest of each thief.
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