Video shows armed suspects targeting cars in Metro East neighborhood

Video shows armed suspects targeting cars in Metro East neighborhood

COLUMBIA, Ill. — There’s a new warning from police about car thieves apparently targeting small towns in Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.   

Police in Columbia, Illinois, shared home surveillance video of armed suspects going driveway to driveway checking for unlocked vehicles.   

Authorities are concerned car thieves in St. Louis may be hopping on the Jefferson Barracks Bridge to get to unsuspecting targets on the other side in towns like Columbia, Millstadt, and Dupo.  

Home surveillance video shows two groups working the Columbia Lakes neighborhood in the overnight hours, 10 days ago.  It shows them checking for unlocked cars in one driveway and another across the street at the same time.   

“What they do is drive down the road real slow, one driver. The other (four suspects) get out, check doors,” said Columbia Police Chief, Jason Donjon.   

The suspects got into 18 vehicles in a short time span, all of them unlocked, he said.  They got into a garage, stole a minivan from it, and ran over the mailbox on the way out, according to police.     

“Actually, it was very frightening.  One vehicle was unlocked (in the driveway).  It didn’t have the keys in it.  It had the garage door opener in it.  They opened the garage door, went in, and got that car (minivan), which had the key in it,” Donjon said.   

Police found the damaged minivan in St. Louis the next day.    

Most of the suspects appeared to be in their early teens, Chief Donjon said. Even more concerning, one held what appeared to be a gun in plain view while going from driveway to driveway.  

“It seems like the level of boldness is really increasing,” Donjon said.   

Authorities have posted a Facebook advisory reminding people to lock their vehicles and offering educational sessions to groups of homeowners.

Police also encourage the installation of home surveillance cameras which can be networked and monitored by police.  They want to alert but not frighten people.  

“This isn’t a call to arms,” Liefer said.   

“You hear something, you see something, please call us,” Donjon said. “We’re never too busy.  That’s what we’re here for.”   

The towns are still safe with little crime, they said.  

They’re out to keep them that way.