Extra efforts being made to catch car thieves

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 6:59 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- It’s estimated that an average of 27 cars are stolen each day in St. Louis City and St. Louis County combined. In St. Louis alone, more than 6,000 vehicles have been reported stolen so far this year. Many of them are Kia and Hyundai models because of a vulnerability with the ignition.

Dawn Barker is one of the latest frustrated victims. Her Kia Sportage was stolen Sunday around 6 p.m.

“Cops took an hour and 20 minutes just to get to my house to even take the report,” she said.

The vehicle belonged to Barker’s mother, who died in October. She said the thieves got away with something priceless when they stole the Kia. There were family photos inside.

“I had all of her photo albums in the back of my mom’s car,” she said. “So I was more worried about the pictures than I was the car. Because all of our memories from childhood on was in the back of this car.”

The SUV was recovered less than 12 hours later but most of the photographs were gone.

There are extra efforts underway to combat the huge auto theft problem. In St. Charles County a criminal interdiction task force made up of officers from multiple police departments is out each night.

In October, the task force made arrests after a couple of police pursuits. Police and prosecutors are working together to take a tough approach to car thieves.

At the time, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said, “If you get caught you will be charged, we’ll ask for high bonds, so you don’t go home at night. And ultimately, our recommendation will be a prison sentence.”

Last week it was announced that 11 police departments in St. Louis County, along with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, would be working together to combat car thefts and car break-ins with saturation patrols in the coming weeks.

The first saturation patrol took place on Tuesday and resulted in 210 vehicles or suspicious persons being stopped, the recovery of five stolen vehicles and 22 arrests.

Police stressed that the public should take steps to reduce the risk of being a victim. The steps include never leaving a car running with no one in it, don’t leave valuables in plain sight and purchase a steering wheel lock if you own Kia or Hyundai model vehicles that use a key for starting.