St. Louis Public Radio News
4:52 pm
Wed June 16, 2010

Additional manpower pushes car break-ins down

St. Louis – The St. Louis Police Department says extra manpower in neighborhoods like downtown, Soulard and Grand Center helped reduce car break-ins by 41 percent in three weeks.

Since May 24th, officers from specialized units like mobile reserve, traffic and special operations joined patrol officers in the 3rd, 4th and 9th districts, where the problems were concentrated. In the first three weeks of May, police received reports of 192 break-ins. Since then, that number has dropped to 113. Officers also made 62 arrests in the targeted area.

The additional units allowed the department to run undercover operations, set bait cars, and use other technology, said Maj. Lawrence O'Toole, who oversaw the initiative.

"We've identified right now what we think is one of the main groups that was striking, and we've arrested three of the four main players," O'Toole said. "From their own admission, they were doing a minimum of 40 car break-ins a night. We're looking for the other individual involved, and he has numerous wanteds for his arrest throughout the entire metropolitan area, including a wanted from the FBI."

O'Toole said investigators have not determined if items stolen from cars are being used to fund other crimes in the area.

It will be Chief Dan Isom's decision whether or not to continue the task force. The officers have been pulled from their usual duties, Isom said, and he'll have to determine if that's sustainable.

"My feeling at this point is that 30 days is probably not enough," he said. "We want to get ourselves through the summer period, really have a significant impact." He said commanders of the special divisions involved in reducing car break-ins have not asked for the personnel back.

If violence spikes, the chief said, special operations teams could return to the neighborhoods, though he does not see the need for that yet.