A recent spate of thefts from vehicles throughout Moniteau County is reminding people to lock their doors, regardless of where they live.
Sheriff Tony Wheatley said the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office responded to 14 reports of stolen property from vehicles in the Jamestown area. He said the thefts likely occurred overnight Feb. 27, with reports coming in Feb. 28. Items reported stolen included identification, wallets, jewelry, key fobs and firearms.
In a late night Facebook post made Feb. 28, the sheriff's office announced suspects were identified in connection to the thefts and some stolen items discarded by the suspects were recovered. Wheatley said the stolen firearms have not yet been recovered.
Wheatley said two juvenile suspects from the Columbia area were arrested in connection to the reports. They were subsequently turned over to juvenile authorities.
In the same post, the sheriff's office reported the California Police Department received similar reports, and "a neighboring jurisdiction may have had more happen there." Wheatley said his department collaborated with the California Police Department to identify the suspects.
"Once we found out they had thefts and learned that they were tied together, then, with the information we had and the information they had, we connected them together as being the same people," he said.
Chief Daniel Hurt said the California Police Department has responded to only a couple thefts, with nothing major being stolen.
Wheatley said a road sergeant with the California Police Department contacted the sheriff's office in regards to fraudulent activity found on a credit card reported stolen from a vehicle in California. Security camera footage from two different stores showed the same suspect using cards stolen from vehicles in California and Jamestown. He said the sheriff's office then issued a stop and hold on a vehicle believed to be used by the suspects, which was later stopped in Howard County. Detectives interviewed the suspects and subsequently released them to juvenile authorities.
Wheatley said one of the simplest theft deterrents is to lock your doors. He said all vehicles involved in the Jamestown thefts were unlocked, and the suspects bypassed locked vehicles. He also suggested keeping valuable items, such as purses and electronics, out of view.
Hurt said people who suspect their vehicle has been the subject of a theft should call law enforcement immediately and not get inside the vehicle.
"When they notice that their car has been tampered with, I would recommend for them to not get inside the car," he said. "Call us immediately, let us get there, let us look at the car, let us open the door and get into it. Try to get, collect as much, if any, evidence that would be in that vehicle, that way it ain't tampered with."
The main thing, Hurt reiterated, is to contact law enforcement immediately and provide them with as much information as possible. Even if nothing was stolen, the report could help authorities solve the crime.
"When people report a crime, it lets us know where it took place, is it something that we've got somebody that's on a regular basis committing crimes or was it some kids, you don't know. But when you report it, when the public reports these things, it's documented," Hurt said. "And we can go back and say, 'OK, we've got something going on here. We've got multiple occasions where they're on this street that's getting hit.' So if we know that, we can set up extra patrol in those areas. We're going to have more chances of stopping crimes if people reports it, and report it as soon as they can."
Residents inside California city limits should report suspicious activity or crimes to the California Police Department at 573-796-2818, while rural Moniteau County residents should contact the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office at 573-796-2525.