Police in West Plains see an increase in car thefts in 2019

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- Police in West Plains say they have had a rash of car thefts and break-ins in 2019. Many they say are preventable by simply locking your car. Michael Deere spoke with a victim who got the best outcome.

Two weekends ago, Wes Gunter parked his truck in the parking lot of the high school. He came back two days later, it was gone. He reported it stolen. West Plains Police say they have worked several dozen vehicle thefts this year alone.

"I guess I had a spare key in the ash tray, hidden under some change," Gunter told KY3.

Gunter is one of dozens of people that have reported a car or motorcycle stolen in West Plains in 2019.

So far this year, detectives have received nearly 50 reports of stolen cars.

Just last month, there were 8 cars reported stolen.

"There's been at least a couple a week here, if not more, Detective Bryan Brauer said. Most of them have been recovered. Some are recovered damaged or crashed. A lot of it is repeat offenders doing it over and over."

Gunter reported his stolen truck early last Monday.

By Tuesday afternoon, detectives found the truck in a parking lot of a housing development.

"It's an odd deal. They act like they just needed a vehicle or something. They took all my money out of it, which wasn't much. They stole some tools and made a mess of it, but it's in good shape," Gunter added.

Detectives say sometimes cars are found abandoned in rural areas and it may be days before detectives can find them.

"We just want to urge everybody to make sure to secure their vehicles, secure their keys and don't leave any firearms or valuables in their vehicles," Det. Brauer exclaimed.

Gunter knows he's lucky to have his truck back.

He says he learned his lesson about having spare keys in his truck.

"I won't do that ever again. I'll double check that it's locked and that it's parked very publicly," he explained.

Police say they have not recovered any of the stolen guns, plus they say cars are being stolen at all times of the day, from shopping centers, car ports, driveways and various parking lots.