Business owners becoming targets of home invasions

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by Maggie Crane / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 18 at 8:35 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Two West St. Louis bar owners are the latest victims of a crime trend that is causing concern among small business owners.

Police are seeing more home invasions where the victims are believed to be targeted for the keys to their businesses.

The latest case is the third in the past month, in different parts of the Metro area.  On Christmas Eve, two adult entertainment store owners were targeted at their home in Mehlville.  On the same morning, a jewelry store owner was attacked in High Ridge.

Police are reportedly sharing information on the crimes but don’t think the three cases are related.  What is similar, however,  is that in each crime the robbers specifically demanded keys or alarm codes to the victims’ business.

Early Thursday morning, two men wearing ski masks and armed with a handgun invaded a home in Tower Grove South, confronting the two women inside- bar owners of Attitudes in the Grove neighborhood.  The men stole cash, phones, jewelry and keys to the bar.  A short time later police discovered that Attitudes had been burglarized. 

Fellow business owners believe someone knew who the owners were or were targeting them specifically.

“This kind of crime is highly out of the norm,” Jeromy Rout, owner of Just John Nightclub, said.  “This is not a neighborhood crime.  I think that it was definitely a targeted event.”

That gives little comfort to fellow business owners like Rout.  He says he and his partner at Just John are extra vigilent—at home and at the club.  He’s outfitted the bar inside and out with cameras and has a safety policy.

“We always err on the side of caution. We think our patrons feel safer, we think our staff feel safer,” Rout said.  “We don’t let people go outside by themselves, they can’t take trash out by themselves, they can’t walk to their cars by themselves.”

Police say that’s good practice and that even simply looking around can make a big impact.

“There’s one thing that a bad guy doesn’t want.  He doesn’t want to be seen, even if it comes down to just the awareness of the individual walking out,” St. Louis County Police Officer Randy Vaughn said.  “The last thing you can offer to a criminal is that you’re aware that he’s there and that he may commit a crime.”

St. Louis Metropolitan Police are looking for two black men, described to be short and thin.  Both were wearing masks.

St. Louis County Police are still investigating the home invasion in Mehlville, and Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputies connected Derrick Stewart to the crimes in High Ridge.  Stewart has been charged with kidnapping, robbery and assault.

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