Disturbing local trend: Armed criminals searching for unlocked vehicles


CLAYTON, Mo. – You’ve heard it over and over again: lock your vehicles. Now, police are hoping a scene captured on home security video will drive home that important message. The footage shows several incidents involving young men visiting house-to-house and in bold fashion.

In one of the videos, a suspect covers up an outdoor camera with his hand while an accomplice checks for unlocked vehicles in Claverach Park. In a separate incident, less than a mile away, two men are seen running across yards. One of them is carrying a firearm in his right hand as he checks for unlocked vehicle doors.

“Any time you see someone with a handgun, we assume that they intend to use it,” Clayton Cpl. Jenny Schwartz said.

The same person carrying the handgun was believed to be spotted in Olivette within about 15 minutes, she said. It’s a crime is being repeated throughout the metro area: armed criminals searching for unlocked vehicles.

“This is seen regionwide,” Schwartz said. “If you look at the information from our surrounding counties, we’re seeing the same kind of behavior occurring. We’re seeing vehicles that are stolen in one county, and found in another.”

Police have repeatedly emphasized the importance of removing valuables from parked vehicles. And yet, many people develop a false sense of security, not only keeping tablets, phones, purses, and wallets in plain view, but also leaving doors unlocked.

With criminals on the prowl for a crime of opportunity, police are now adding a second warning: the suspects can be armed. If you see anyone on or near your property, do not confront them, Cpl. Schwartz said.

“If they’re going behind your house, if they’re coming up on your front porch in the middle of the night, that’s not normal behavior. That’s what we consider suspicious activity,” she said. “Don’t try to approach that person. Instead, contact your local police department. Be able to describe what that person was wearing, what they’re doing, and where they’re headed.”

Schwartz added that it is important to contact police immediately, and not wait until the next day.

Above all, she said, always remain alert.

“We’ve been home more often this past year, so people are a little more comfortable with being at home. And thinking that nothing is going to happen,” she said.

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