ST. LOUIS – After St. Louis police reported 149 cars stolen in a single week, a new wave has begun.

It started just before 7:00 a.m. Monday and was over within 20 minutes. Four more vehicles stolen within about a mile of each other. The victims left their vehicles running while they were just steps away from them, so close they could see them being stolen.

“I mean, it was right in front of my face,” said Charlie Schmitz.

Schmitz, 19, was loading his Honda CRV to head to school at Ranken Tech. He started the vehicle but made a return trip into his house on Watson Road, just west of Hampton Avenue. Moments later, he watched that CRV disappear.

“I didn’t see them walk up but I heard the door close. They drove off with $700 worth of tools; all of my Ranken textbooks, and my entire school bag,” he said. “Thankfully, I didn’t have my laptop in there.”

About five minutes later, a man had his Volkswagen Jetta stolen as he popped into the Sweet Em’s Coffee & Ice Cream in nearby Dogtown.

Within eight minutes of that crime, a woman had her vehicle stolen about a mile away while dropping of her dog at No Leash Needed pet care on Hampton.

Customer Carson McGill said it could have easily happened to him. He left his vehicle running when he dropped off and picked up his dog, Lexi. He said it was common practice because customers remained close to their vehicles even while inside the business, able to keep an eye on the parking lot just on the other side of the glass storefront.

“I sit right there looking at my car every time,” McGill said. “(The thieves are) paying more attention to my car than I am. That’s the scary thing. I’ve got to be a little smarter than them.”

That held true for a woman airing her tires at the QT gas station just a few blocks away. She had her Jeep Cherokee stolen about seven minutes after the theft at No Leash Needed, according to police. The thief was undeterred by the St. Louis Police Department Real Time Crime Center surveillance camera tower at the QT, just a half-mile from where Schmitz was already calling his school and his insurance company.

“We’re trying to get a rental car,” Schmitz said. “The big issue with rental cars is that there have been 150 cars stolen in the last week, so the rental places don’t have that many cars to rent out anymore.”

Investigators think that the suspects drive around in previously stolen cars, looking for quick and easy targets. As always, lock up and take your keys, even if you’re only going to be steps away from your car.