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ST. LOUIS — St. Louis County Council members introduced three bills aimed at curbing the recent spike in car thefts and break-ins.

According to police, car break-ins in St. Louis County are up nearly 10% since the start of 2021.

“Thirty years in law enforcement, I was the Police Chief,” said councilman Tim Fitch. “And I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen a rash of car break-ins like we’ve seen in St. Louis County like in the last few months.”

The new legislation would give prosecutors and law enforcement more power to punish thieves, getting them off the streets.

“They’ll be able to arrest them based on what their intents were, what they’re trying to do when they were caught,” said Fitch. “It would give them an opportunity to search that vehicle incident to arrest, to look for evidence of other crimes, tow the vehicle if necessary, get them out of the neighborhoods.”

And it’s not just neighborhoods in the county.

“It’s just a huge stress that none of us should have to deal with right now,” said St. Louis resident Ashley Mercado.

Thirty-six cars were broken into Sunday night at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, including Mercado’s. The four thieves targeted cars in the garage all within 20 minutes.

“The stress of having a kid sick in the NICU and coming down here and dealing with that and then walking out to see your car was broken into… It’s just crazy,” she said.

The thieves smashed the driver’s window to break in to their car, only to steal a used gift card.

“We didn’t even hit our deductible, so it’s $500 out of our pocket on top of everything else happening right now,” said Mercado. “So, it just stinks having to focus on something else.”

Mercado’s husband now has to worry about getting the car fixed while taking care of the couple’s other children.

A spokesperson for BJC Hospital released the following statement:

“Early on the morning of Sunday, November 14, thirty-six cars were broken into in the patient and visitor parking garage at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. No one was injured and increased security presence has been put into place. The St. Louis Police Department is searching for the four suspects who committed all of these break ins within 20 minutes. We are cooperating fully with the investigation.”

“These are crimes that are affecting everybody in the community whether you’re rich or poor or you live north or south, east or west, it’s affecting everyone so we really have to take some aggressive action to prosecute these people,” said Councilman Fitch.

Fitch believes the bills could be passed in the next three weeks. Discussions will start at the next County Council meeting.