This morning, two members of the St. Louis County Council spoke in support of efforts they hope will curb overnight thefts from parked cars in residential areas.
Speaking at the County Council chambers, Councilman Tim Fitch said that tonight he and Councilman Mark Harder will officially propose two ordinances intended to “shore up” gaps in laws already on the books.
The first proposal would allow county police officers to charge individuals caught riding in stolen vehicles with “vehicle tampering.”
The second soon-to-be proposed ordinance is intended to make it more difficult to profit from stolen car parts, such as catalytic converters. The new ordinance would require people selling catalytic converters and other scrap metals to salvage yards to present a photo ID, and salvage yards would have to maintain a registry of who they buy scrap from.
These two upcoming proposals come on the heels of “vehicle prowling” legislation proposed in the County Council earlier this month. At the November 9 council meeting, Fitch and Harder introduced an ordinance that would make it a crime to “test or pull any doors of successive vehicles … that the person does not own or lease, without each owner’s or lessee’s permission.” Fitch said that police get calls about individuals “walking up and down the street checking for door handles” to find cars that are unlocked, but it’s not clear whether any law is being broken in such an instance.
St. Louis County acting Police Chief Kenneth Gregory said that St. Louis County has seen a 289 percent increase in catalytic converter thefts so far in 2021 compared to the same period last year. According to Gregory, theft from autos have increased 10 percent in that same time.
Councilwoman Rita Days also came out in support of the proposed ordinances, saying that she hoped they would help reverse the trend of “crime stats that are ramping up” in the county.
Last month a similar bill to the proposed ordinance against pulling on door handles passed in the city despite criticisms of it by Mayor Tishaura Jones. Jones urged the city’s Board of Aldermen to remove a provision in the bill requiring jail time for repeat offenders. Ultimately, she allowed the bill with the contested penalty provision to go into law without her signature.
Under Harder and Fitch’s proposed ordinance in the county, those found guilty of “vehicle prowling” could face a year in jail as well as up to a $1,000 fine.
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A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that auto thefts increased 10 percent this year. It is thefts from autos that have increased 10 percent in the first ten months of 2021 compared to last year.
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