The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reminded student transporters to be on the lookout for suspicious persons lurking around the school buses or facilities as local and federal investigators continue to look for eight buses that were stolen in the St. Louis and Jefferson counties area in the state of Missouri over the past year.
The reminder came during a teleconference held in mid-February with industry stakeholders from the state and national level as well as the private sector.
William Arrington, GM of TSA’s Office of Highway and Motor Carrier, said that, after the last school bus stolen, video footage showed an unidentified man entering various school buses for more than an hour as if he was looking for a particular type of vehicle.
Investigators are not saying at this point why they think the buses were targeted but added that increased security tied to Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis included additional searches of school buses in the area. No security breaches occurred, and the event went off without incident. Still, Arrington said the thefts demonstrate that school buses remain the targets of criminal activity, at the least.
"The Transportation Security Administration, Highway and Motor Carrier Division is committed to sharing security-related information with the appropriate stakeholder, law enforcement officials, and other security partners," Arrington told School Transportation News. "Information sharing is a critical component to increase security awareness and prevent potential attacks against the transportation sector.
He pointed to the First Observer program as one solution. The training helps school bus drivers and others identify possible suspicious activity and report it to their supervisors and local authorities. Arrington also said indicators of suspicious activities can include:
- School buses that appear out of place or in an area that it doesn’t belong
- Inappropriately parked or unattended bus
- Recently painted school buses
- New or missing license plates
- Replaced or new lettering on the sides
- Missing screws or rivets on exterior surfaces
- Heavily tinted windows
- Visible alterations to the exterior
- Accessing arrival or off-loading areas without passengers
- Nervous or suspicious-acting drivers and/or passengers
- Inability to properly operate the bus
- Avoidance of authority figures, law enforcement or security personnel
- Unusual odors of chemicals or other products emanating from the bus
- Vehicles that appear overweight