HAZELWOOD, Mo. (KMOV) – An undercover officer posing as a pizza delivery driver arrested a 21-year-old convicted felon who was smoking marijuana in Hazelwood Tuesday night.
According to Randy Vaughn with the St. Louis County Police Department, the officer was delivering a pizza to a home on Bellefontaine Neighbors around 10:20 p.m. when he found a man and woman smoking marijuana inside a car parked in front.
Police said the officer arrested both people and was given consent to search the home. That’s when he found a large amount of heroin and loaded firearms.
According to police, the male suspect had a lengthy rap sheet and was not allowed to possess a gun.
Charges against him were expected to be filed later Wednesday.
St. Louis County police have begun delivering pizzas for Imo’s while undercover after Brian Johnson was shot and killed during a delivery in the 10100 block of Saffron in north St. Louis County on November 5.
The shooting marked the second time in six months an Imo’s driver had been fatally shot in an apparent robbery in St. Louis County. Another driver was killed in May.
“It would be a crime if we stood by and did nothing when these things are happening,” said Vaughn. “So we’re involving ourselves.”
The managers of the different pizza places embrace police’s tactics.
But it’s those who used to make a living delivering pizzas who say the dangers are no longer worth the job.
“My mom would kill me. I can’t do that. She wouldn’t be happy,” said Zac Schwering, who delivered pizzas for Imo’s pizza in North County until Johnson’s death.
Schwering says drivers do not just have to worry about who is waiting for the pizza, but also how the pizza is ordered.
Cell phones are now an essential lifeline for all pizza places. One local pizza worker says up to 70 percent of all orders come from cell phones. But with the recent crimes against delivery drivers, they’re also becoming a hindrance.
Mark Ratterman, a manager at a local Domino’s, says criminals will use unregistered cell phones, preventing the company from calling back and authenticating the call.
It’s dangerous practice some pizza managers say they will no longer tolerate.
In the last two years, 19 pizza drivers have been robbed on the job, with 13 of those being at gunpoint. Most of the robberies happened on Mondays and Thursdays, either in the street or on the doorstep. All happened between 7 p.m. and 1a.m.
A majority of the cases involved two robbers working together.
St. Louis County police on Wednesday held a town hall meeting to talk about the steps they are taking to stop the violence, as well as train delivery drivers how to better be prepared when delivering pizzas. Media was asked to leave the meeting so everyone could speak off the record.