Pretty much everyone agrees, car thefts are a problem in St. Joseph. Just how much of a problem? Well, that’s up for debate.
According to data provided to News-Press NOW by the St. Joseph Police Department, the city had the fifth-most car thefts in the state. However, when the data is broken down per 1,000 people, St. Joe isn’t in the top 10.
A different set of data tells a much different story. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the city has consistently been ranked among the worst cities in the entire country for car thefts.
In a radio interview, St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally took issue with the national studies because they include a greater area than just the city limits.
“We have too much auto theft, without a doubt. But, when you look at all cities in Missouri, no, we are not the worst in Missouri,” Connally said, according to KFEQ. “We have an auto theft problem, like many similar cities and like many cities in Missouri.”
In the police data, which is derived from the Missouri Crime Reporting Program, St. Joseph had 7.27 car thefts per 1,000 residents in 2018. By comparison, Kansas City had 9.09. Joplin, which according to the data has about 20,000 fewer people, had 6.84.
Not accounting for population, St. Joseph reported 562 vehicle thefts in 2018, according to the police data. The next highest city was Independence, which had 1,208. The next lowest from St. Joseph was Joplin, with 337 thefts.
In regard to qualified data, some outliers are clear. According to the police data, the city of Vinita Park had 43.09 thefts per 1,000 people. The city of Tracy had 23.36. However, those cities have populations of 1,880 and 214, respectively.
Country Club Hills had seven thefts in 2018, but was last on the list in per capita thefts with 5.53.
In terms of which types of cars are being stolen in St. Joseph, the police data said 518 automobiles, 28 trucks and 16 other vehicles were taken.
The police data does not include the city in Missouri that is most similar to St. Joseph in population, O’Fallon City, according to the United States Census Bureau.
In a previous interview, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Captain Tiger Parsons said his agency recovers at least one stolen vehicle in the rural areas of the county per week. According to police records, in just the last two weeks, vehicles were reported stolen from Messanie and Pacific streets as well as Gene Field Road.
To combat stolen vehicles, Chief Connally provided News-Press NOW with a document that includes different methods, citing the NICB. Those methods are: common sense, warning devices, imbolizing devices and tracking devices.
Under the “common sense” approach, factors include removing the keys from the ignition, locking the doors and windows, and parking in a well-lit area.
Some of the other devices listed include audible alarms, wheel locks, smart keys and tracking devices.
News-Press NOW is scheduled for an interview with Connally on Wednesday on car thefts, make sure to check back for the latest updates.