Tempe police: Suspect tried to flee after stealing city bus

TEMPE, AZ - A city bus in Tempe was stolen for a second time in less than a month—and that has Valley Metro making some changes.

We've learned the suspect tried to run from police after they caught him allegedly stealing that bus.

But he didn't make it far with the police station just around the corner.

Just a few feet away from the Tempe police station, police say 27-year-old Donald Plato stole a bus that was running from the transit center Thursday afternoon.

No one was on it. But this wasn't the first time it happened.

Just three weeks ago, police say surveillance video shows James Martin stealing a bus from the same place and taking it on a joyride.

In a jailhouse interview last week, he admitted he was using meth.

“I am sorry I took the bus,” he said.

It all ended in a Tempe neighborhood where Martin crashed into a wall.

“Then I walked around the corner, and here's this bus sticking through the wall of somebody's house, it was kind of shocking,” said John Ball, who lives across the street.

“I think the evidence is that something needs to be done,” he said.

He thinks the fix is simple.

“Maybe the fundamental problem is the bus drivers tend to leave the buses running, get out, have a smoke break and do whatever it is they do and then get back on meanwhile someone's jumped in and driven it off,” Ball said.

Valley Metro says drivers leave buses running so they don't get too hot. They say after the first bus was stolen they started teaching drivers how to disable the buses.

“There will not be a way for a passenger or anyone passing by to actually get behind the wheel and operate the bus,” said Susan Tierney with Valley Metro.

John thinks that's a start.

“Anything to just keep the random person from jumping on the bus and taking it,” he said.

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