St. Louis County Councilmen propose ‘Vehicle Prowling’ laws

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  • RYAN KRULL
  • Councilor Tim Fitch is promoting new efforts to curb car thefts.

This morning, two members of St. Louis County Council in support of the effort, which they hope will curb overnight thefts from parked cars in residential areas.

In a speech in county council chambers, Councilman Tim Fitch said tonight he and Councilman Mark Harder will officially propose two ordinances aimed at “supporting” gaps in laws already on the books.

The first proposal would allow county police officers to target people caught driving in stolen vehicles for “manipulating vehicles.”

The second soon-to-be-proposed executive order aims to make it harder to make money on stolen car parts, such as catalytic converters. The new executive order will require people selling catalysts and other scrap to salvage yards to present a photo ID, and salvage yards to keep a record of who they buy scrap from.

These two upcoming proposals come on the heels of legislation on “vehicle navigation” proposed by the county council earlier this month. At the Nov. 9 council meeting, Fitch and Harder introduced a decree that would make it a crime to “test or pull doors to consecutive vehicles … which the person does not own or lease, without the permission of each owner or lessee.” Fitch said police are getting calls about people “going up and down the street and checking for door handles” to find cars that are unlocked, but it is not clear if any law is being broken in such a case.

St. Louis County Attorney General Kenneth Gregory said St. Louis County has seen a 289 percent increase in catalyst theft so far in 2021 compared to the same period last year. According to Gregory, car thefts have increased 10 percent over the same period.

Councilwoman Rita Days also came out in support of the proposed ordinances, saying she hoped they would help reverse the trend of “rising crime statistics” in the county.

Last month, a similar bill was passed to the proposed executive order against pulling on door handles in the city despite criticism of it from Mayor Tishaura Jones. Jones called on the city council to remove a provision in the bill that requires jail time for repeat offenders. In the end, she let the bill with the contested penalty provision go into effect without her signature.

According to Harder and Fitch’s proposed ordinance in the county, those found guilty of “vehicle sailing” could risk a year in prison as well as a fine of up to $ 1,000.

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