THIEVES targeted a bus used by disabled school children.
All four wheels were stripped from the Ford Transit mini-bus, which was parked in the Sunderland Echo car park.
The specially-adapted bus belongs to Highfield Community School in Ford Estate, and the relies on it to take children to and from activities.
It is believed the theft took place between 5.30pm on Wednesday and 6.20am on Thursday.
A number of people broke into the car park, in Pennywell Industrial Estate, by removing parts of a metal fence then made off with the wheels, which are worth about £2,000.
Police are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
Pc Neil Wilson said: “We’re carrying out enquiries to trace those responsible and would urge anyone with information to contact us.
“This bus belongs to a school and is a vital vehicle for them. This is a thoughtless and costly theft which has left the school extremely upset.
“Anyone who saw suspicious activity in and around the car park overnight on Wednesday into Thursday, or who knows the whereabouts of the stolen wheels, should get in touch as soon as possible.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 ext 69191, or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.