Several police departments join forces to fight car thefts

CLAYTON, Mo. — More than 10 St. Louis County police departments just pulled off a crime-fighting feat in the St. Louis area, which they’ve succeeded twice. They recorded two nights without a single car theft or car break-in.

The departments find it better if they don’t just travel alone and don’t just respond to criminal calls. Instead, they work together to prevent break-ins before they happen.

Clayton, Richmond Heights, Maplewood, Ladue, Brentwood, Olivette, Creve Coeur, Frontenac, Town and Country, Des Peres and the Ballwin Police Department joined the St. Louis County Police Department in the first comprehensive effort to eliminate the Stop car thefts and break-ins that have been happening in their departments and the rest of St. Louis.

“We can’t do it all alone,” said Chief James Cavins of the Town and Country Police Department. “We need to show a concerted front that we’re fighting this together and hopefully not just moving it elsewhere, we’re going to minimize it with the ultimate goal of eliminating it, but we have to come together as one team.”

Cavins said each department agreed to have at least two officers patrolling their own areas at any given time. They were available to officials in other jurisdictions when needed. Over the course of six months in 2022, the departments shared statistics and police information on car crimes. Using this information, the departments agreed on times for the initial saturation efforts. So far there have been two. The first was from midnight to 6am on a November weekday. The second took place over a weekend in December from 4pm to midnight.

The first attempt involved a case in Clayton. Police believe a suspect was looking for cars to break into after midnight while driving a vehicle stolen from Arnold a week earlier. According to a court document, the suspect was driving more than 80 miles per hour in a 35-mile zone in Big Bend, near Wydown. He crashed, was arrested and charged with multiple crimes.

Police say saturation efforts led to 210 traffic stops and 22 arrests as of November first. Five previously stolen cars were found and returned.

The numbers were much lower in December, when St. Louis County Police couldn’t attend. There were 93 stops, one stolen car recovered and two arrests.

The most important number from both efforts was “zero”: No department reported a single car break-in or theft during those first two saturation efforts.

“It’s absolutely invisible,” Cavins said. “The best crime-fighting tool we have is the visibility of marked police cars with uniformed officers saturating our community. The more officers we have on the streets that are more visible, that’s the best crime-fighting tool we have.”

The hope is to combine these with similar efforts to those that have been successful in St. Charles County and secure police funding over time to sustain it over the long term. Several police departments join forces to fight car thefts

Sarah Y. Kim

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