The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will only chase stolen vehicles under the most dire of circumstances as thieves continue to steal an abundance of cars in the St. Louis area.
The sheriff’s office recently modified its pursuit policy to restrict officers from chasing stolen vehicles unless the vehicles or their drivers are connected to certain crimes.
The policy change came after the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office weighed the benefits of apprehending suspects versus the safety risks pursuits can entail, according to Sheriff Dave Marshak. He specifically cited the amount of stolen vehicles making their way into Jefferson County from St. Louis.
“With the amount of stolen vehicles coming out of St. Louis right now, it’s a necessary evil, so to speak,” Marshak wrote the the Riverfront Times in an email.
Car thefts have skyrocketed in the St. Louis area and beyond as a viral TikTok trend inspired a rash of Kia and Hyundai car thefts. The trend became such a problem that St. Louis city officials threatened to sue the automakers in August lest they make their “defective vehicles” less easy to steal.
Vehicular pursuits in the St. Louis area have led to several deaths and injuries in recent months. And what’s more: Only a small percentage of thieves in St. Louis city and county are caught and charged for the auto thefts. Most are juvenile offenders.
In October, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones proposed to use at least $40 million in federal pandemic aid dollars to improve traffic safety in the city.
Pursuits are allowed:
- If the stolen vehicle is known to contain a working firearm
- The vehicle is occupied by a suspect wanted for a dangerous felony
- If the suspects in the vehicle used or displayed a deadly weapon.
“Our implementation of a new more restrictive policy is [an] acknowledgement of our realities,” Marshak says. “Stolen vehicles are property crimes, and we do not want to contribute to a serious physical injury or death crash absent other circumstances.”
Ryan Krull contributed to this report.
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