COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
As car break-in numbers climb in Columbia, the Columbia Police Department is working to increase patrols in areas with reports of multiple break-ins.
CPD spokesperson Christian Tabak said they are attempting to increase patrols in parking lots, parking garages and certain neighborhoods.
"When there's multiple instances or repeated instances, that's when we increase our patrols," Tabak said.
Meanwhile, another Missouri city has tried another solution to fix the problem. The St. Louis suburb of Shrewsbury has made it illegal to test or pull any vehicle doors that a person does not own without the owner's permission.
The Vehicle Prowling bill was passed by the city's board of aldermen in November 2022. It also makes it illegal to enter a vehicle someone doesn't own without permission.
"It pretty much gives the officers out on the street an extra tool to bring charges against the people breaking into cars, or even trying the handles of cars," said Capt. Brent Goewert.
Goewert said it's still too early to tell if this law has had an effect on the amount of car break-ins, and so far there have been no charges or arrests. However, he does believe it will deter criminals.
"Criminals now know that if they come into Shrewsbury and they do get caught trying door handles, trying to get into cars, that there is a charge," Goewert said.
Tabak said if someone is caught trying to get into a car in Columbia, they could be charged with second degree tampering.
Columbia city councilman Don Waterman said no solution to the city's car break-in problem has been brought up to the council. He said he's not sure another law would make a difference, but instead, thinks increasing police staff would help address the issue.
"If we were able to get the staffing up in the police department close to what is authorized to let the officers then get out on patrol, I think that it would address some of this," Waterman said.
Columbia saw 369 vehicle break-ins in the first six months of 2023, which is on pace to beat the total number of break-ins in 2022. Vehicle break-ins have been on the rise every year in Columbia since 2020.
Tabak said the department is also trying to better educate the public to always lock their vehicle. He said it's especially important to never leave valuables, such as guns, inside a vehicle.
"So many times it's just a matter of, if you lock your doors, the suspects move on," Tabak said. "It's not like they used to do, where they'd break windows with a brick or something. It really just comes down to if they find a car that's unlocked, they'll open it up and pilfer around."