Legislation Needed to Combat Carjacking
Last week, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his support for legislation that would toughen penalties for the crime of carjacking. In December, I plan to pre-file a bill that would make violent carjacking a separate felony offense and impose strict prison sentences on those who commit this heinous crime.
Similar to my Senate Bill 433, which received unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2019 legislative session, this bill will create a specific felony offense for those who seize possession or control of a vehicle by physical force. Once my bill is enacted, vehicle hijacking would become a class B felony. The use of a deadly weapon would elevate the crime to a class A felony. Without specific language in the statutes to address carjacking, some prosecutors currently charge offenders with lessor offenses that do not reflect the violent nature inherent in taking a vehicle by force.
Carjacking has become increasingly common as thieves turn to physical confrontation to gain control over the chip-enabled key fobs necessary to operate a modern vehicle. No longer able to hotwire cars, thieves threaten violence in order to make off with automobiles. The phenomenon is especially acute in St. Louis, where nearly 350 vehicle hijackings occurred in 2018. The alarming trend continues in 2019, with vehicle thefts by force outpacing last year’s totals in the City of St. Louis.
I welcome the attorney general’s support in my legislation to combat these brazen violations of personal security. Those that would threaten physical harm or death in pursuit of a mere automobile show a wanton disregard for life and civility. Our current laws are inadequate to respond to those who would terrorize our citizens. It is time to revise Missouri’s statutes to reflect the frightening level of criminality on our streets today. I look forward to working with the attorney general to pass these much needed reforms.
As always, thank you for your interest in our work at the state Capitol. I look forward to sharing some of the important issues affecting our state and our community in my next report. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in the Missouri Senate!
Robert F. (Bob) Onder, Jr.