BELLEVILLE, Ill. – Thieves broke into a school bus yard and stole several catalytic converters from school buses in Belleville, Illinois. There is a damage assessment Friday for small school buses.

“We’re cooperating with the Belleville Police Department for the investigation,” said Brian Mentzer, superintendent for the Belleville School District 201. “It does appear that 17 of our buses, their catalytic converters were stolen. It appears they entered the property from the rear and removing them that same way as well.”

It all occurred sometime overnight at the Belleville School District 201 bus yard on Mascoutah Avenue.

The catalytic converters were cut from the bottom of the buses. School officials did not know about the situation until they arrived Friday morning to start the buses to pick kids up for school.

“It does not appear that we had any significant delays,” Mentzer said. “Obviously, that’s a considerable number of buses considering our small bus fleet. There were some minor glitches, but it appears we were able to get everyone to school this morning.”

Mentzer said different buses were put into service to run the routes that the impacted buses would normally do. He said the smaller buses that were hit serve special education and special needs students, and that the bigger buses, which run on diesel, don’t have catalytic converters.

Mentzer said school officials are working with Belleville Police on this case and checking surveillance cameras on the lot. Those images are being reviewed to see if they can help with the investigation.

The superintendent said there are 220 buses on the lot and that it serves eight different districts.

“Anytime you’re dealing with the public’s money, it’s frustrating when people have disregard for that,” Mentzer said. “In our case, we provide transportation to our feeder districts, so we really view this as a service as a community to be able to do this, so yeah, it’s unfortunate.”

If anyone has any information on these thefts, you are encouraged to call the Belleville Police Department.