Missouri could make it a class E felony for anyone who roams neighborhoods looking for unlocked cars and garage doors. Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis, is proposing to strengthen the penalties for these acts.

He said groups of people are routinely doing this in his south St. Louis County district to look for opportunities to steal from homes and cars. They are often pulling door handles, hoping to find unlocked cars that they can rummage through to steal stuff.

“This is happening every night in St. Louis County, every single night. It’s just something now that is neighborhood terrorism,” Murphy told a Missouri House committee. They also go and check for the garage door openers, and they open the garage door and they go in and pilfer the garage. They’ve gotten more bold, because now not only are they doing that but they see you have cameras, so what they do is they show their weapons daring you to come out.”

Murphy said Missouri law does not cover these acts, or they fall under crimes which carry too little punishment. He said the penalties for juveniles are even more lenient.

Murphy is sponsoring House Bill 1510, which would create the crime of “unlawfully gaining entry into a motor vehicle.” It would be a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

It would also extend the crime of second-degree burglary to include unlawfully entering a vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or theft. Burglary is a class D felony, which carries up to seven years in prison. If a person violating this provision has or steals a gun, it would be a class C felony, punishable by three to ten years in prison.

A Missouri House committee could soon vote on the bill.

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