When car or property theft occurs, victims take the matter very seriously, but the St. Jospeh Police Department advises citizens not to take the law into their own hands.
In a recent case, a person’s car was in the process of being stolen until the owner jumped in the car with the thief. During the struggle to gain control of the car, it struck a utility pole and a newly constructed Dunkin’ Donuts concrete wall.
Crime prevention Sgt. Roy Hoskins with the Police Department said that is not something they want to see people get involved in.
“You have to let the law work for you in that situation, because if you jump in a car and try to remove someone, you’re probably going to get hurt,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said most of the time the person attempting to take their property back wouldn’t get charged, but if they’re hurt, then medical expenses and insurance can turn out negatively.
“If you do get injured in that situation, your medical bills — if you ever get them covered — are going to be a long process,” Hoskins said.
Police also want to avoid the uncertainty of a bystander or property nearby becoming involved as well.
“Someone else could get hurt, it may go into a building or hit another car,” Hoskins said. “There’s all kinds of bad things that could happen.”
Hoskins said if a car or property falls victim to theft, the first step should be notifying police.
“We want good witnesses and people that are going to be able to identify the person as best as they can and give us as much information as possible,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he makes sure to train neighborhood watch groups on how to act in those situations and becoming the best witnesses possible.
Hoskins said vigilantism is something where people could run into issues with the law if they’re not following it within proper parameters.
“If they don’t know exactly what the law is and whether they’re operating within it, they could be acting in a criminal matter and be charged,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said it’s different if it’s a life or death situation and says citizens should do what they think is right at that time.
“The castle doctrine here in Missouri allows you to fire at people in certain situations, but it’s very strict cases,” Hoskins said.
Police’s No. 1 priority is citizen safety and Hoskins said they’ll always do everything they can to locate property, but they’re the ones that should be handling it.