Car thefts spreading across the St. Louis area, thieves getting bolder

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by Maggie Crane / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 11:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 4 at 10:27 AM

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Two cars were stolen overnight in what police call a growing crime spree across the Metro area.

A 67-year-old man was shot at when he came out to find two men trying to steal his car in North St. Louis Monday morning.  Another vehicle was swiped in Bellfontaine Neighbors while a family slept. There’s no telling yet whether the two incidents could be related, but police do believe it showcases just how big the problem has become.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police on the Auto Theft Task Force showed News 4 their Hot Sheet Monday night; a list of 77 cars reported stolen, and that’s just for the past week. 

Police say thieves have gotten good at getting in without damaging your car, and that makes it harder to police.

“I’m ticked.  I’m very ticked off,” Tony Dyson said. Dyson was two months away from paying off his 2003 Dodge Caravan (MO license plate DD0 Z4C) when he says it was stolen straight out of his driveway in Bellfontaine Neighbors early Monday morning.

“It just really sucks because I don’t see how someone would have the audacity.  I mean, in our driveway, you’re like 15 feet from our house, man,” Dyson said.  “If you’re that ballsy to get that close to my house, it makes me think, ‘are you going to come closer?  Are you going to try to come in my house one day?’”

Police fear his van could wind up in North St. Louis where they’re finding dozens of stolen cars around Natural Bridge between Kingshighway and Fair.

“We tend to focus on the area where they’re being recovered because we know if they’re being recovered there, that’s where they’re being driven,” St. Louis Metropolitan Police Sergeant Robert Boney said.

Police admit that auto theft is a hard crime to stop.  Perhaps that’s one reason it’s a growing crime trend.

“When I started in Anti Crime, I think [car thefts] were more or less just about joyriding, going from point A to point B, and using the cars to commit other crimes such as robberies, assaults and so forth,” Sgt. Boney said.  “But I believe now that it’s become a profit factor for [thieves] as well.”

Police say car thieves have started leaving stolen cars parked throughout the city and county, then selling the keys to the highest bidder—often for only a few hundred dollars.  Many were swiped during heists at dealership lots.

“They should know at that point that the car must have been stolen.  I mean, where can you buy a 2012 Nissan for $500?” Sgt. Boney said.

Believe it or not, police say thieves often find keys inside the very cars they steal.

“There’s a possibility there might be a valet key inside the vehicle,” Sgt. Boney said.  “A lot of times when individuals purchase these cars, they may not be aware of it, and the guys who break into the cars will rummage through the cars, looking for whatever they may find, and sometimes they might come across that valet key.”

Auto theft cases also can be hard to prove.  If a person is caught driving a stolen car, it doesn’t necessarily mean he or she stole it.  And when thieves have a key to the stolen car they get caught driving, police say it can be difficult to prove it was actually stolen.

Thanks to a change in state law, car boosts are profiting from stealing cars another way—by scrapping them for cash.  In Missouri, you no longer need a title to sell a car off to a scrap yard if the car is more than 10 years old.  Police say that caveat makes it all too easy for thieves to make some quick cash.

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