School bus vandals caught on tape - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School bus vandals caught on tape

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April 9, 2007

Albany--  We've got shocking video that shows young vandals in action. They took school buses for joyrides around the bus lot, damaging nearly two dozen of the big vehicles and putting their own lives in danger.

What they didn't know was that surveillance cameras video taped their escapade and led school police to arrest the suspects, three boys and two girls who range in age from nine to twelve.

It's dangerous playtime caught on tape. "What time is it?," asked a 12-year-old on the bus radio.

There were a total of five Dougherty County school children playing bus driver. One mastered the wheel.

"Go around! Go around! Go around!," yelled the young driver.

While he drove, the others mastered the radio.

"We headed yall way. We fitting to meet yall. Don't yall go nowhere!," said a 9-year-old via bus radio.

The video shows it all.  Those who drive the school buses professionally are shocked.

"I was really surprised," said Dougherty County School bus driver Gail Brown.

Gail Brown has been a bus driver for several years. "I love my children," said Brown. But she doesn't love the thought of this.

"No. This was not a good thing. This is what I would consider not constructive. They could have done something else," said Brown.

What was done happened under watchful eyes though.

"We came up with several good photos, still shots and video footage which led us to the proper identifications," said Dougherty County School Police Chief Troy Conley.

Five children, the youngest 9 and the oldest 12, were pulled from school on Monday.  All were questioned after their schools identified them from the surveillance footage.  Most had no real excuse.

"They were out joy riding and I guess being that they are at a youthful age, they did not realize the seriousness of what they had done," said Conley.

Although young, they still have to face the consequences. "There is a place for violators and regardless of their age, they will be charged accordingly," said Conley.

One 9-year-old did have an early warning to one of her partners. She said, "Don't mess up that old lady's bus.  She said she's been driving this bus for thirty-something years."

However, she later joined him in the driver's seat. At one point, she falls off after the bus hit something.  Later, the ride comes to a complete halt when the 12-year-old loses control and rams the bus into the garage.

"When they do things like this, it costs us the taxpayers more money," said Brown. Many say the kids are lucky they were able to get up and run from the situation. But it's one that later caught up with them.

It will now be up to the juvenile court system to decide what happens to the kids. They will be charged with criminal damage to property and trespassing.  Other charges may be pending.

They'll also have a school tribunal hearing but will remain in class for now. Chief Conley says to prevent something like this from happening again, they'll increase security measures which will most likely include a reconfiguration of the fencing at the bus yard.

A total of 21 Dougherty County school buses were damaged from the vandalism. The kids found keys in some bus cubbyholes and hiding places.  That's how they were able to start the buses.  

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