JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Republican State Senator Bob Onder says carjacking in the state is a big problem.
"A problem that has been increasing at an epidemic rate," Onder said.
During a Missouri Senate Committee Hearing Monday, Onder read an email from a retired St. Louis police lieutenant.
That officer's niece was a victim of carjacking in Kansas City.
"He pressed a gun into my niece and threatened to kill her," Onder read.
The carjacker pleaded guilty and spent four months in jail, and has 12 years of probation.
Right now, there is no law making carjacking a crime in Missouri. Prosecutors often have to charge the criminal with robbery, theft, or stealing.
Onder's bill would change that. It makes most carjackings a Class A felony.
A convicted carjacker who seriously hurts someone in the car, or is armed and threatens the victims with a deadly weapon could face at least 10 years behind bars.
"These are violent crimes in which Missourians are terrorized in what should be a safe sanctuary..their cars," Onder said.
Camden County Sheriff's Captain Chris Twitchel thinks this bill will help.
"Putting stiffer penalties on these types of egregious crimes might be a deterrent for thieves and for offenders because there is such a stiff penalty," Twitchel said.
Carjackings don't happen often at the Lake of the Ozarks, they are more prevalent in urban areas. The Camden County Sheriff's Office says there are things you can do to make sure you're staying safe. It's as easy as locking your doors.
"Don't be a victim. Make sure you're aware of what you're doing, your vehicles are secure, don't sit in front of a gas station somewhere and let your car idle while your car is unlocked," Twitchel said. "Do stuff like that to just minimize the chance of being a victim of these types of crimes."
Attorney General Eric Schmitt and several law enforcement associations are supporting this bill. 23 other states, including Kansas, Illinois, and Tennessee, all have similar laws.