Who Stole Hawthorne's School Buses?
Updated, Nov. 18: In the end, the school buses stolen in Alachua and Flagler counties earlier this school year essentially just switched places.
Now, after a two-month absence, they're back where they belong.
In a Monday news release, Alachua County announced its two buses have been located in Flagler County.
Twelve days ago, Flagler's buses were found in Gainesville.
Since September, Alachua County has installed security cameras at its five bus lots.
Original story, Sept. 11:
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help in finding two school buses that were taken from Hawthorne over the weekend.
The tag numbers of the stolen buses are 239-578 and TC4-561.
It's the first time buses have been taken in Alachua County, but not the first stolen buses in Florida. Four other school districts across the state have had similar thefts since 2012.
Nine school buses have been stolen. None have been recovered.
Alachua County deputies are working with other agencies in Florida to find a possible connection in the string of unsolved crimes. School district officials see a pattern.
Harrel Harrison, Alachua County Schools director of transportation, said the buses are the same type stolen in Flagler County in late July — rear engine buses.
Some of them cost up to $112,000. Harrison said the district has insurance that could cover a portion of the cost of a new bus, but not the entire cost.
The buses were taken from a compound near Hawthorne High School sometime between Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning. The thieves cut the lock on the fence and managed to start the buses without the keys.
ASO doesn't know why school buses are being targeted — perhaps for foreign sales or chop shop parts — but deputies are on alert.
"We're very aware of it and take it very seriously because we don't know why this person took it," said ASO spokesman Art Forgey.
He said they will continue to investigate and look for connections in other similar incidents.