Almost half of the buses in the Sunshine Coast Transit fleet have been robbed in two separate break-ins at the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) works yard on Mason Road.
The thefts are a first for the transit system, which operates in partnership with the SCRD and BC Transit.
On Oct. 1, commercial buses were broken into and the fare boxes ripped out and again, on Oct. 9, fare boxes were pried open and money stolen from three Handy Dart buses as well as regular service buses. Tools were stolen from the Mason Road site also.
The RCMP believes the crimes were committed between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Several hundred dollars in fares were pilfered overall, according to SCRD infrastructure services manager Remko Rosenboom, who called the amount a “rough estimate.”
Eight buses were targeted in total. The Sunshine Coast Transit System operates a fleet of 17 buses.
Despite the damage to the fare boxes, there have been no service delays as a result of the break-ins, said Rosenboom. “We have been able to rearrange schedules to ensure that all scheduled services, Handy Dart as well as conventional, were maintained at all times.”
That has meant, however, that buses stayed in service even though fares could not be collected. “Occasionally a bus was on the road with no fare box,” said Rosenboom, adding, “We made the decision that having the buses on the road and maintaining the schedule was more important than collecting fare revenue on those trips.” They rearranged the bus service to ensure a “minimal impact” on fare revenue.
The SCRD is waiting for fare box replacements from BC Transit for the ones that are beyond repair, though they do not appear damaged. “Some can be operated at the moment but they are not in the best shape,” he said.
As a preventive measure, the RCMP has boosted its patrols of the area and the SCRD has also hired a security company to perform evening and night patrols, among other changes.
“We collaborated fully with the RCMP in their investigation and we appreciate all their efforts to date to end this series of break and enters in the area. I really hope there will be an end to it soon,” Rosenboom told Coast Reporter.
The works yard isn’t the only place repeatedly targeted in the surrounding area. There have also been recent break-ins at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden on Mason Road and the Blue Ocean Golf Club.
RCMP advised businesses in more remote areas like Mason Road to take extra security measures such as installing lights, increasing surveillance, removing cash and valuables from the premises and making it obvious.
They also recommend that tools be labelled with a business name so that they are easier to return if recovered.