Purses and other valuables were taken from five vehicles parked at Legacy Park in Cottleville on Wednesday, May 4 – four with front-passenger side windows smashed to gain entry and one through an unlocked door.
It all may have happened in 15 minutes – between 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. — about 200 feet from where about 100 first- and second-graders were and the vehicles owners were attending a school outing. The break-ins were also about 500 feet from the city police station, but no one said they heard or saw a thing, according to Cottleville Police Lt. Craig Hebrank.
Hebrank said the thefts may have been a “crime of opportunity” because purses could be seen on the front seats of the vehicles. Police routinely advise that valuables, including electronics and purses, should be placed in a truck or under a car seat so they are not easily visible.
Police say a blunt object rather than a rock may have been used to smash the car windows. Once the windows were smashed, someone reached in and grabbed the purse, Hebrank said. He noted that a car alarm may have been activated if a car door had been opened.
“Even out here, and anywhere in general, people have a false sense of security,” he said. “’Hey, I’m close to my car, gosh, I’m only going to the park for a little bit.’ The next thing you know…”
The purses contained credit and gift cards. Hebrank said little cash and no jewelry was taken. Two of the cars were parked next of each other, followed by a work truck, and two other cars all parked along Fifth Street just inside the park. The other car was parked across from two cars.
Hebrank said police have some good leads on possible suspects, but as of May 6 no arrests had been made.
First- and second-graders from Warren Elementary were on a field trip to the park and using a park pavilion. No suspicious persons seen nearby were reported.
The noise from the group and staff and parents paying attention to children may offer an explanation. “When you get 100 first- and second-graders near the playground area, that’s a pretty noisy bunch,” Hebrank said.
He said there had been no recent reports of car thefts or incidents in nearby subdivisions that may have tipped police off that something might be afoot. Cottleville police contacted Kirkwood police about an incident Monday night were six vehicle windows were smashed.
“It’s a great park and safe park, unfortunately something like this happened,” he said. Police officers routinely patrol the park’s playgrounds and dog park when they return to the police station, located at city hall. “We haven’t seen anything prior to that.
“What happened on Wednesday equaled our entire output of 2015 for cars broken into. It’s just a rarity out here.”