In the last six months thieves targeting touring musicians have hit St. Louis. At least eight bands' touring vans have been robbed since May 2014. Some musicians like rapper Spose have vowed to avoid the city because of the thefts. Police Captain Daniel Howard, of the Fourth District, where many of the thefts took place, said authorities are making progress and some equipment has been recovered.
“There’s a ringleader of a group of thieves that we have our eyes on, and we are working with a prosecutor to make charges,” Howard said.
But even if the criminals are caught, local venue owner Mike Cracchiolo fears the damage already caused to the music community.
“It doesn’t really matter for us one way or the other because even if the cops were to catch arrest and put away every single person that was currently involved, tomorrow, somebody else would figure this out and do it,” he said.
The thefts have hit musicians across genre including, rappers, folk artists and metal groups. Last week police met with local music venue owners to discuss the string of thefts. The meeting took place after three band vans were broken into during a two-week period. According to Howard and Cracchiolo, police and venue owners discussed best practices for protecting gear and vehicles including parking in visible well lit areas and removing equipment that can be seen through car windows.
Police are also pursuing undercover strategies. The meeting took place after some initial venue irritation with the situation.
“There’s been some frustration, and a knee-jerk response from some of the club owners and certainly some of the music fans. Why aren’t the cops doing anything about it?” Cracchiolo asked. “The short answer is, well they are, it’s just not as simple and easy as it looks because these aren’t easy cases to prosecute.”
The cases are difficult to prosecute because of nature of the crime. The expense and inconvenience of returning to St. Louis mean touring musicians are unlikely to come back to a city just to provide testimony. However, Howard said much of the initial information gathering can be done by phone. Musicians would only need to return if the case made it to trial.
Cracchiolo said venues can still make bands welcome. He advises venue staff to make sure bands are aware of the risks and take steps to protect their valuables while informing musicians of the venues are doing to protect them. One of Cracchiolo’s venues, Firebird, now posts staff at musicians vehicles during shows.
“The more shows that bands play that are successful, where they feel like the staff was really concerned about their welfare and took care of them, that goes a really long way,” he said.