ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says in the month of January, there were 691 reported incidents of motor vehicle theft compared to 311 during the same time period in 2022.
5 On Your Side learned there are two types of cars that thieves are targeting more than any other with 217 Kias and 186 Hyundais.
One active group trying to curb this problem is the Shaw Neighborhood Ownership Model.
The group observes the crime surrounding them, surveys the surveillance and takes notes of patterns.
"They'll serpentine through the streets. Driving up and down the street looking for cars to steal," board member Gary Hosna said. "With police, we give them all the information we have."
The Shaw neighborhood is just one of the many communities impacted by car thefts in St. Louis.
Hosna has learned there are groups that will come in from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. and he believes they are looking to steal cars.
Hosna said last year, 143 cars were stolen in Shaw.
But just in the last week in St. Louis City, 149 were taken.
"That's insane, absolutely insane," Cory Hammerstone said.
The owner of Hammerstone's in Soulard is also concerned.
She's seen the crime impact the customers and employees.
Hammerstone said, she worries about the theft, which in turn, could also steal profit.
"A lot of our business is tourism. I feel like we have a good amount of people from out of town. To have the tourism impacted by that, it definitely hurts," Hammerstone said.
Most importantly, she's worried about her team and guests.
Hammerstone voices the lack of support from police, at times.
"What's the point of fixing up the city if you don't have police officers to serve and protect it?" she said.
She's advocating for more pay for the short-staffed department.
Just last week, 5 On Your Side spoke to the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
Joe Steiger is the business manager and he said, "In St. Louis County, a police officer tops at 15 years just above $81,000. For St. Louis City, an officer after 30 years gets $69,000."
He also pointed out that the department had 1,000 staff members.
Ten years ago, he claims there were about 1,300 members in the department.
Hosna also sees the need for more help.
"We need the actual direct resources. They have limited resources," he said.
But Hosna remains optimistic, especially after police formed a carjacking task force.
"I'm excited to see a team put together to catch these guys. It's a new day and age, we have a new chief," Hosna said.
5 On Your Side also learned there is a Facebook group called GotStolen STL.
There are 24,000 members.
We spoke to the organizer who said, this includes victims or friends and family trying to help in the area and they've seen a bump in members.
The group began seven years ago but since this summer, 2,000 people are joining each month.
Where to buy a steering wheel lock
Clubs are available for $15 at the Five Star Senior Center at 2832 Arsenal Street, the St. Louis' Citizens Service Bureau or at the Department of Revenue. Residents should call ahead to city hall to check availability, bring proof of city residency and pay in cash.
For more information about the clubs, call 314-622-4800 or visit the city's website.
Non-St. Louis residents can find the devices online or at most auto parts stores.
The St. Louis Police Department shared these tips on their website to prevent auto-related crime:
- Use a "club" or other steering wheel device.
- To purchase a "club" or other anit-theft devices, visit the Department of Revenue's License Fee Office, 1200 Market, Room 110 or the Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal.
- Try to park your car in a well-lit area.
- Check in, around and under your vehicle for suspicious persons before entering.
- Lock all doors after entering your vehicle.
- If possible, keep your car parked inside of a garage instead of on your driveway or on the street.
- Always lock your vehicle, even if you are only leaving for a few minutes.
- When walking to your vehicle, always have your keys in hand so you won’t have to fumble for them, making yourself an easy target for criminals.
- NEVER leave a running vehicle unattended.
- Completely close all your windows when you park the car.
- NEVER leave your title or other important paperwork inside your car.
- Consider installing an alarm.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car. If you do, make sure they are kept out of plain sight — hide them under a blanket, or better yet, lock them in your trunk.
- When transporting valuables, place them in the trunk before you get to the location where you intend to park. Don’t transfer them at the parking place in open view of other people.
- Always keep plenty of gas in your vehicle so you do not have to stop at unsafe locations or times.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- If you have car trouble, try to get to a safe, well-lit spot, put on your emergency flashers and display a “Send Help Sign” if possible.
- If you are being followed while driving your car, drive to the nearest police station or gas station. If there are no safe places to stop, honk your horn in short rapid blasts and turn on your emergency flashers. Call 911 and try to obtain a license plate number and description of the vehicle that is following you. NEVER drive home or pull to the side of the road.
- When leaving your vehicle, always remove detachable faces for stereos and GPS units.