According to a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a rash of older vehicle car thefts has occurred in the city over the past several months. The reason, surprising as it may be, might be found in a recent change to Missouri law.
The newspaper report traces the recent rise in older model car thefts to a change that took place in Missouri statutes back in August of 2012. The revised law made it easier for car thieves to cell certain cars for scrap. Specifically, the law makes it easier to sell nonfunctioning cars that are 10 years old or older for scrap. The measure, known as House Bill No. 1150, says that those seeking to sell the cars for scrap do not need to have a valid title to do so. Prior to passage of the measure, the only cars that could be sold for scrap in Missouri without proper title were those that were more than 20 years old.
Critics of the measure say that by continually strengthening laws against scraping other metal, especially copper, the newly relaxed car scrap legislation has served as an invitation for petty thieves to focus their energies on old vehicles they can easily flip for several hundred dollars profit. The legislator who pushed the bill through the General Assembly, Representative Kevin Engler, says that the change was never intended to cause a spike in old car thefts. Instead, the measure was meant to allow those living in rural areas to sell their dilapidated cars more easily. The hope was that people could more easily clean up their property and get a little cash in the process.
Police say that while the matter may not seem like such a big deal, after all, who is really concerned about the disappearance of broken down clunkers, the thefts actually spell other trouble for residents of Missouri. For one thing, insurance rates depend, at least in part, on the rate of vehicle theft. There’s no distinction between thefts of old cars versus late model vehicles and the recent spike in incidents could result in serious across the board increases.
Another issue, according to law enforcement officials, is that the law does not provide enough support to ensure junkyards are actually checking for the necessary photo ID before buying the car or even ensuring that the vehicle is inoperable. HB 1150 contains no requirement that the scrap dealer perform any sort of certification that the vehicle is nonfunctioning; they simply take the word of the person selling it.
Police in St. Louis County have said that they’ve seen a 37 percent increase in thefts of older-model vehicles since the new law took effect. The recovery rate for stolen vehicles has now fallen below 50%, representing a drop of more than 10% in less than a year.
If you’ve had a run in with the law and find yourself in need of a Missouri criminal defense lawyer capable of aggressively protecting your interests, contact our St. Louis criminal defense law firm today at (314) 863-0500.