160 LA Unified School Bus Catalytic Converters Stolen This Year

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
May 27, 2022 Updated: May 31, 2022

LOS ANGELES—School buses in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have become the most recent target for catalytic converter thieves, rekindling a debate over whether the district should increase its budget for school police patrols.

Catalytic converters—devices containing expensive precious metals that mitigate toxic exhaust emissions—have been stolen from about 160 LAUSD school buses since January, costing the district roughly $581,000 so far, CBS reported on May 26.

While it can take the district up to four weeks to replace a bus’s catalytic converter, an LAUSD spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email that “student transportation has not been negatively affected by the unfortunate thefts.”

In addition, the LAUSD’s transportation services division recently started a campaign to identify its catalytic converters by stenciling “LAUSD” and the last 5 numbers of the vehicle’s VIN number onto the devices to prevent theft and recover stolen equipment.

Due to these proactive measures, the district has recovered eight stolen converters, the spokesperson said.

The rise in catalytic converter theft comes after LAUSD’s school board voted last February to cut the district’s police budget by one-third in response to police brutality protests after the George Floyd killing.

The board also voted last February to remove school police officers from patrolling campuses, though officers remain on standby in case of an emergency call.

Before 2021, LAUSD’s school police department had 510 officers, some of whom patrolled LAUSD garages overnight.

LA School Police Sergeant Rudy Perez told The Epoch Times previously that many officers left as a result of those changes, which cut school police ranks to fewer than 300 from 510.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced on May 25 that he will soon update school security protocols in the wake of a Texas elementary school shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

The district is currently negotiating its 2022–23 school year contract with local teachers’ union United Teachers LA—which advocated previously to keep school police off-campus.

Last March, the district purchased 10 zero-emissions school buses, which seat 72 passengers and can travel up to 155 miles on a single charge—and don’t require catalytic converters.

Catalytic converter theft is an issue that has swept LA in recent years.

In March, the LA City Council voted to investigate catalytic converter theft prevention measures after 39 catalytic converters were stolen from city vehicles in just one weekend last December.

Each catalytic converter can be sold for up to $1,200 each, according to the LA County District Attorney’s Office.

LA School Police Sgt. Rudy Perez, Lilia Montoya, director of LAUSD’s Department of Transportation, and Daniel Kang, deputy director of LAUSD’s Department of Transportation, didn’t respond by press time to requests for comment.