JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO - A growing problem in Jefferson County is becoming a top priority for the Jefferson County Sheriff`s Department.
The number of stolen cars so far this year in Jefferson County has increased dramatically compared to last year.
“It was awful seeing someone drive away with my car in a neighborhood that seems pretty safe,” said 19-year-old Kaity Hermsmeyer from Barnhart about her Honda Civic being stolen.
She was at her boyfriend`s house on Silverwillow Court near Fenton in the early morning hours of March 19th when her Honda Civic was stolen from just outside the home.
The car was unlocked and Kaity mistakenly left the keys inside it.
“It was definitely something I wasn`t expecting to happen. People are horrible and they`ll take advantage of whatever they can,” said Kaity.
Her boyfriend, Blake Williams tried to stop the crime, “I looked out my window and saw them so I ran downstairs and came outside and looked for them but he was gone by the time I got outside,” said Blake Williams.
Whoever stole Kaity`s car crashed it a short time later then apparently took off.
Kaity`s Honda Civic is one of 92 vehicles that were stolen in Jefferson County from January through March of this year.
That`s a 26% jump versus the first three months of last year when 73 vehicles were stolen.
“It`s always concerning when you see a jump in crime especially when you`re talking the percentages that we are,” said Grant Bissell, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Sheriff`s Department.
He says a lot of the cases are crimes of opportunity, people leaving their cars unlocked, many times with the keys in the cars.
In some cases, the vehicles were left running.
“Certainly, nobody deserves to have their vehicle stolen or have a crime committed against them at all. But when you make it easier for criminals to do it they`re going to go the path of least resistance,” said Bissell.
He added, “We also know there are other groups out there, people that are working together to steal vehicles to either commit other crimes with those vehicles or perhaps to sell off the parts or do whatever they might need to do with them.”
Bissell says stolen cars have been on the rise in Jefferson County for a while.
There was a total of 243 stolen cars in 2017; last year the total was 316.
Bissell tells us in this latest spike, the criminals have been stealing a lot of Ford F series trucks from the late 90`s to the early and mid 2000`s.
Kaity has a message for everyone, “Be aware, be very aware. Lock your cars, double check everything.”