Secure Your School Buses Against Thefts

Catalytic converter thefts are on the rise, but smart cameras can help keep your buses secure.

When it comes to schools, the top priority should be educating young minds, not the physical and cyber security of the institution and of the individuals within it. Sadly, that can’t always be the case. From hackers gaining access to school networks by exploiting weaknesses in everything from routers to thermostats, to students bringing weapons into classrooms, to unaccounted visitors gaining access to buildings via tailgating, schools are facing more threats than ever before. In the past few months, we’ve seen the rise of yet another one.

Although school buses merely seem like a way of getting students from their homes to school and back again to most people, it turns out that, to some bad actors, they are also a treasure trove of opportunity. Recent months have seen thieves targeting parked school buses and stealing catalytic converters. This has introduced a new security vector for schools looking to keep their campuses — and their assets — safe. In response, many have taken new steps to secure their bus terminals and prevent themselves from being easy targets. Read on to learn more about the new scourge and about the steps you should take to avoid becoming the next victim.

 

The Problem: Thieves are Targeting School Buses

Let’s be honest, school buses aren’t the vehicle you’d most expect to have stolen. It turns out, though, that the gaudy yellow exterior actually hides internal gold. Well, not literal gold, but certainly some seriously valuable parts. In recent months school bus catalytic converters have become prime targets for thefts. But what makes these parts so valuable?

Sure, these exhaust emission control devices play an important role within the vehicle, converting the pollutants and toxic gasses found in exhaust gas into less harmful particles, but that’s not where their value comes into play. Catalytic converters usually contain platinum, palladium, and rhodium — three precious metals that have appreciated in value over the last couple of decades. It’s no surprise, then, that catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise. In New York City alone, the number of thefts quadrupled this year.

On April 26, 2022, these thefts took on a new angle when two separate incidents saw catalytic converters get stolen from parked school buses. On Staten Island, the thieves hit four school buses, while on Long Island 14 converters were stolen. After these initial incidents, the practice only grew in popularity, spreading beyond New York’s borders.

In Wolcott, Connecticut, officials arrived on Monday, June 6th to find eight smaller school buses were missing converters. According to Edward Stephens, Wolcott’s police chief, students who relied on those buses faced three-hour delays to their school start time. Schools in New Jersey have also had to deal with their own catalytic converter thieves. Eight converters were stolen from South Orange Maplewood School District’s buses, while twelve were taken from Westhampton Township’s Burlington County Special Services School’s buses.

Unfortunately, these devices take thieves just minutes to steal but can have major negative impacts on the victims. Not only will the buses with missing catalytic converters be left out of commission until a replacement is found, interrupting students’ and parents’ days and putting the district in a tight spot, but it also costs thousands of dollars to replace these exhaust emission control devices. A single catalytic converter theft typically means $16,000 in damages, not to mention a significant logistical headache for the bus company that’s left with buses lacking essential parts.

 

The Solution: Smart Cameras to Prevent Thefts

Clearly, something needs to be done to stop the increasingly brazen catalytic converter thieves and prevent copycat thefts. The good news is that there is a simple solution: high-definition video surveillance of bus terminals. Not only will investing in smart cameras help secure parked buses, but it also won’t break the bank. Plus, installing smart cameras in your bus terminals is a natural next step for the many schools already using security cameras to monitor their grounds and their hallways. Some have even started using cameras in classrooms, so why not harness the power of smart cameras to protect your buses, too?

Smart cameras are compatible with many operating systems and usually have a dedicated processor that enables them to work independently. Because smart cameras feature built-in artificial intelligence (AI), they can autonomously analyze captured footage to locate culprits based on input descriptions. For example, if a witness reports seeing a red car in the area around the suspected time of the theft, you can input a natural language query and your smart camera will then locate any footage containing red cars. Smart cameras can even help with license plate recognition!

Similarly, AI-powered cameras can detect intruders in real-time and track their movements. From tailgaters to unaccounted visitors, smart cameras can quickly spot those who don’t belong and even provide reports on their activities, making it easier for law enforcement to take action. There’s no doubt that AI-powered smart cameras can save schools valuable time, allowing them to catch thieves faster than ever.

What’s more, the mere presence of security cameras can deter thieves, as they will instantly know that the property is protected. As a result, they may opt to target an area where they’re less likely to be caught on tape, leaving your school buses untouched.

 

Stop Catalytic Converter Thefts (and More!) with The Help of a Trusted Partner

Catalytic converter thefts are rising, and the consequences can be devastating. Not only will you have to deal with delays, but you’ll also need to replace stolen converters, which takes both time and money. Smart cameras can make all the difference in protecting your buses and your school as a whole — as long as they’re correctly installed and configured.

With the help of a partner like Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI), you can avoid both physical security and cybersecurity risks and ensure you get the most out of smart camera technology. The experts at TTI have more than three decades of experience working with schools, businesses, and more to secure spaces. As an Avigilon partner, TTI has access to the latest AI-powered smart cameras, which can help keep your school buses secure and prevent thefts.

Reach out to us today to discover how TTI can help you leverage top-of-the-line smart cameras to protect your buses from catalytic converter thieves and more!

By Robert Elgart

August 30, 2022

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