ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- Now that the tourist season is heating up, St. Louis Police want to warn visitors and residents of St. Louis to "Park Smart."
"Don't leave valuables in your parked vehicle, but if you must lock them up out of sight." That's the advice from Community Outreach Sgt. Catherine Dennis. If you have a vehicle like a van or bus where you cannot conceal valuables, Dennis says park at a lot with security and a full time attendant.
It's advice that would have protected a high school basketball team last weekend. Nine players and three adults arrived on the St. Louis riverfront Sunday afternoon midway through their trip from Sycamore, Illinois to Springfield, Missouri.
The students from Cornerstone Christian Academy High School were heading to the National Christian Homeschool Basketball tournament. They parked a small bus near the Arch and locked it up. Even though they kept an eye on the bus, someone broke a window and crawled inside.
When the students returned to the bus they found belongings missing... wallets with cash for the trip, a laptop, seven ipods, ipads, head phones, basketball gear like shoes and two uniforms, school books and even backpacks containing class notes for a semester and a half of school.
Team coach Scott Hallebach said the three adults and the students were "shocked." "Unfortunately they do have that hit in the face look at St. Louis and almost scared of St. Louis, but they are really handling it," Hallebach said. "God put them there and this was to happen and they are really reacting as Christian kids and this has been enlightening for me."
Parent Julianna Ladas said once the police had been called one of the team starters decided they needed to pray. "We decided we needed to go ahead and continue the trip and so the boys were just praying for the guys that did this. These boys have a hope that people who broke into our vehicle don't have and they recognized it right away."
The team went on to Springfield, MO and won its first two games. Play resumes Thursday. "They've been able to put it beyond them... beyond what has happened and focus on playing basketball which has been really great," said Hallebach.
One of the opposing teams from Wichita collected seventy dollars to help those teens whose meal money had been stolen.
Team uniforms are green and white with the name Royals on the front. No one expects the losses to be covered by insurance.
St. Louis police are continuing to investigate looking for any riverfront surveillance tape or witnesses.
Anyone with information should call the St. Louis police or email firstname.lastname@example.org.