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Police: Suspects saw off catalytic converters from school buses at Columbus day care

Because his buses were undrivable, 12 families who rely on the buses to take their kids to and from school were inconvenienced.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jason McGee started one of his preschool buses on Monday and knew instantly something was wrong. 

"It sounded like a tank," he said. 

Two buses from Primrose School of Upper Arlington were hit by thieves Sunday night. 

He captured all of it on a surveillance camera and reported it to Columbus police. 

"We are seeing the thefts of catalytic converters everywhere whether your car is parked in a well-lit roadway or even in a person's actual driveway," said Columbus Division of Police Sgt. James Fuqua.

McGee said because his buses were undrivable, 12 families who rely on the buses to take their kids to and from school were inconvenienced and there was a loss of income to his school by not being able to drive those kids. 

He estimates damage to his two buses is about $4,000. 

"They were here for about an hour-and-a-half which amazed me," he said, 

Why did the suspects stay that long? 

A steel plate that the school installed under the bus to prevent thefts like this slowed the suspects down. 

"The catalytic converter that has the shield is still in place because it has the shield on it because they couldn't get through the shield but they had already cut the pipe so it's just laying inside the guard," McGee said. 

Unable to get the catalytic converter, school surveillance video caught the suspects walking off with two other converters they had sawed off. 

Over the course of five days, 10TV searched through reports from Columbus reports and found that there have been 10 reported catalytic converter thefts across the city from April 5 to April 10. 

10TV has highlighted catalytic converter crimes for weeks. We told you about police busting a suspected catalytic converter ring in Franklin County, thefts at a local ambulance company hit multiple times and thefts at lifecare alliance that serves meals on wheels where the thieves cut a hole in their fence to steal them. 

You can read the latest coverage below. 

Police say it's not just businesses that need to be concerned about the rise in catalytic converter thefts. 

"One of the unusual places where there appears to be a spike are residential areas specifically to apartment complexes," said Sgt. Fuqua. 

As for McGee, he wonders what more he can do. 

"As soon as this is repaired, it could happen again that night there's nothing else I can do to make it [safer]," he says. 

Police are advising people to park their cars in a garage. If not, park in well-lit areas with lots of foot traffic to deter thieves.  

Catalytic converters contain precious metals which make them valuable to sell. Ohio ranks eighth in the nation for catalytic converter thefts. 

Under Ohio law, all scrap metal dealers are "required to have a photograph of the seller, Driver's License or State ID, the license plate of the vehicle transporting the material, an itemized list of the materials and, in some cases, a photograph of the item(s) being sold." 

Additionally, all transactions are supposed to be entered into a searchable database and reported to the state. 

Scrap dealers can face a felony if they don't comply.  

State Representative Bob Young introduced House Bill 408 which aims at tightening Ohio's scrap metal laws. 

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