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SPD Vehicle Theft Unit Hopes to Stop Criminals in Their Tracks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Springfield Police Department recently launched a new vehicle theft unit. Vehicle thefts are on the rise in Springfield.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. --  The Springfield Police Department has launched a new vehicle theft unit in hopes of catching more thieves.

The new theft unit became fully staffed in January.  There's a sergeant and three officers who work as investigators.

With a rise in auto thefts over the past few months, police say they're hoping this unit will help stop criminals in their tracks.

"By far, the vast majority of stolen vehicles, the keys are in the vehicle," says Captain David Millsap with the Springfield Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division.

Vehicle theft is on the rise in Springfield.

"We've seen this resurgence of cars being stolen here," says Captain Millsap.  "I don't know what the reason is."

People have been leaving their cars running unattended this winter to try to keep them warm, making things easier for thieves.

"I didn't know I was going to be there long," says Car Theft Victim Andrew Ferguson.  "About a minute and a half into it, I heard my engine revving up."

Springfield police investigated a rash of car thefts in January.
 
"We were averaging about five cars a day stolen," says Captain Millsap.

"If you want to start your car and run it-- have your eyes on it," says Springfield Police Department Crime Prevention Officer David Snider.  "Be close to your vehicle.  We understand it's cold, but you have to prevent that potential thief from making your car a potential prize."

"I tried to stop them," says Ferguson.  "And they sped up as they drove toward me, so I jumped out of the way and they bottomed out on Division and drove off.  I don't think it occurs to anyone until it happens to them, then they are worried about it all the time."

Whether it be in your neighborhood or at a shopping center, car thieves can strike anytime, anywhere.

"Property crime specifically," says Officer Snider.  "Because people are not being vigilant or aware and aren't taking care of their property like they should be."

"It's really city-wide," says Captain Millsap.  "And a crime of opportunity."

Police say it's very important to be aware of your surroundings and if you aren't inside the car, the best place for your key is in your pocket.

Police hope the new vehicle theft unit will help keep criminals who target cars behind bars.

"They've done a good job and our clearance rate went up about four percent in auto thefts," says Captain Millsap. 

Police want us all to pay close attention so we can keep our own cars from becoming targets.

"Be aware.  Look around.  Be very vigilant with everything and the environment around you," says Officer Snider.  "Because the one thing you see, the one smallest thing you could see, could be the link we need to solve many different crimes."

Police say usually a stolen car is also being used for other crimes.  They say sometimes people will get their cars back in the same condition they were stolen and other times a lot of stuff will be missing from inside the car.
   
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