St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack is hopeful his department has stopped a recent rash of vehicle break-ins with the arrests of an 18-year-old St. Clair man and a 22-year-old Sullivan man.
The names of the individuals have not been released pending formal charges being issued through the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but Hammack said the men were arrested in connection with several recent break-in and theft incidents in the city.
According to a report from Hammack’s office, at 10:05 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13, St. Clair police were dispatched to a residence on Grant Street in reference to an individual reporting items missing from an unlocked vehicle. The reporting party said that sometime between 8 and 10 p.m. that night, someone removed two iPhones from their vehicle parked outside their residence.
Hammack said one of the iPhones had a tracking device, and it led police to a residence on Sherman Street.
After their arrival, officers searched that residence and located the iPhones. They also found other items, including a cellphone and a GPS, reported stolen from other vehicles in recent days.
The 18-year-old, who earlier was caught on a surveillance camera entering an unlocked pickup truck parked at the St. Clair Elks Lodge on North Commercial Avenue, was arrested at the Sherman Street residence. The owner of the pickup said $180 was stolen from the vehicle while it was at the Elks.
During their investigation, police learned that a backpack containing school supplies and a cellphone was missing from a vehicle parked on Lee Court. Those items were recovered on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks near West Street. Hammack said the owner of that vehicle was not aware of the alleged theft until officers returned the property the next morning.
A second suspect, the 22-year-old Sullivan man, was arrested on Friday, March 16.
Hammack said four residences where the two men have been known to reside from time to time have been searched, but no additional items that have been reported stolen were found.
The chief said there have been about a dozen incidents in the last couple of weeks where unlocked vehicles have been broken into and items removed within the city limits.
In a story that appeared in The Missourian on March 7, Hammack encouraged local residents to make sure vehicles were locked after his department had dealt with an increase of break-ins during the past several months.
Hammack said individuals will walk around, make sure no one is looking and then try a vehicle door to see if it is unlocked. If it is, they open the door and quickly can remove items from seats or the floor.
According to St. Clair police reports, 74 vehicle break-ins were reported from March 1, 2011, to Feb. 29, 2012. Of those, 72 involved vehicles with unlocked doors.
“This is nothing new,” Hammack said. “We’ve just noticed it happening more frequently lately, and we want people to be aware that usually it can be stopped simply by locking their doors.”
Hammack said other communities in Franklin County are dealing with the same thing.