ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Criminals in medical masks are ransacking local businesses and it’s adding insult to injury to local businesses struggling in the wake of the crisis.
“It made us feel disgusted,” said Evangeline Sutton, a spokesperson for Clement Auto Service.
At the dealership in St. John, nearly 10 masked men ransacked the place Sunday morning, doing damage and taking off with important papers and brand new truck.
“I think it made us feel angry that they are doing this when we are just trying to stay afloat and service the community,” Sutton said.
St. Peters police say a gun store off I-70 was also recently hit by a thief. The culprit was wearing a face covering and blue medical gloves.
“It’s not a surprise to me because it’s going around the country, on both coasts,” said former St. Louis County Police Chief and Councilmember Tim Fitch.
Fitch said criminals seek opportunities, and the COVID-19 crisis is a big one. He says it’s possible we’ll see an increase in heists.
“Anything that could be sold quickly, anything that can be converted to cash quickly,” Fitch said.
So far, St. Louis police are seeing about a 20% increase in business burglaries and break-ins compared to the same time last year.
But St. Louis County is seeing an uptick only in "non-forced" entries, which would normally be called inside jobs.
But Fitch says even more worrisome is a potential increase in domestic violence.
“It amazed me the number of people buying alcohol, the more alcohol is consumed at home, the more domestic violence issues go up,” said Fitch.
A spokesperson for St. Louis County police said they are still doing business checks on patrol, saying their manpower is strong and officers are working diligently to prevent and address crime.
Reports from New York City say business break-ins have jumped 75% with concerns that inmate releases from jails may be contributing.