There’s been quite a bit of discussion recently about crime and how it affects an entire region. It is undeniably (well, most would agree) an issue in the City of St. Louis and it is spreading elsewhere, including to St. Charles County.
In St. Charles County, we’ve specifically had issues with vehicle thefts and break-ins. Statistics from Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar tell us that 65 percent of individuals incarcerated in the St. Charles County Department of Corrections on auto theft-related crimes are not residents of St. Charles County. And Corrections Director Dan Keen tells me that 45 percent of those incarcerated in the County jail on all crimes are not from St. Charles County.
What are we doing about this? Plenty.
At the end of 2020, vehicle thefts were up 74.70 percent over 2019. St. Charles County Police Chief Kurt Frisz and Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Lohmar began working with police chiefs across the county in 2021 to arrest and prosecute those who break into and/or steal vehicles in the county. This led to the formation of the Auto Theft Task Force which began operations in February of 2021. At the end of 2021, car thefts in St. Charles County were already down 39.31 percent from 2020. The task force continued to operate into 2022 and as of today’s date, Nov. 22, 2022, they have made 411 arrests for the year, and car thefts are now down another 50 percent from 2021. St. Louis County and the Maryland Heights Police Department have also adopted our operational plan and are running their maneuvers in conjunction with ours.
Tim Lohmar says 85+ percent of those caught have been sentenced to serve time in prison or are still incarcerated awaiting sentencing.
Because of the efforts of the St. Charles County police departments, overall crime was down in 2021 vs. 2020. In addition to motor vehicle theft, burglary, fraud, arson, larceny, violent crime, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, and firearm-related incidents all decreased. Murders and hate crimes stayed the same, at five and three respectively.
Our schools are safer as well. Thanks to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the County Council was able to approve funding to place School Resource Officers (SROs) from the County police department in public elementary schools of unincorporated areas of the county for the 2022-2023 school year. This extends our SRO placement to include every public school in unincorporated St. Charles County, as well as Augusta Elementary in the Washington School District and schools in Dardenne Prairie and Weldon Spring. We are looking for resources to continue to fund this past 2023.
All officers in the county are ready should an active shooter incident occur. They are trained in Multi-Assault, Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC), which is used throughout the country. This is intense, recurring training that is mandatory for any officer.
I feel great about the abilities of our officers to keep us safe, but they need our help as well. What can we do? Plenty.
- Close windows and lock the doors of your home and your vehicles.
- Remove your keys from your vehicle and don’t leave a spare to your home or car nearby.
- Don’t keep valuables in your auto, especially if they can be seen from the outside.
- Park in well-lit areas and close to building entrances, when possible. If you have a garage, park in it and keep the garage door closed.
- Leave lights on when you aren’t at home.
- Install an audible alarm system at your home or on your car.
- Take advantage of vacation checks offered by the St. Charles County Police Department.
I talked to Chief Frisz and he wants to remind residents that while these crimes happen all year, they intensify over the holidays. “We are asking everyone to observe safety precautions,” he says. “We tell people to ‘lock it or lose it,’ for a reason.”
And the Chief has another word of caution. If you see someone trying to steal your car or catalytic converter, call 9-1-1. If you’re at home, turn on the lights. Don’t confront them because very often they are armed.
Stay safe, folks. Stay alert, be vigilant, and have happy, safe holidays.