Police are investigating the theft of several cars from the St. Clair Auto Mall in O'Fallon.
The crime happened about 3 a.m. Friday and auto mall owner Jamie Auffenberg said at least three vehicles were stolen. Auto Mall employees spent most of the morning Friday doing inventory trying to determine how many more cars -- if any -- are missing.
"I know there were three cars that were taken from used car facility in the auto mall," Auffenberg said. "There were two other stores that were broken into, Nissan and Kia. We know the fence was broken through, but it's taking a while to determine exactly what is missing. We have a large inventory with more than 2,000 vehicles in stock."
The cars known to have been taken are a 2013 silver Dodge Charger R/T, a 2013 silver Kia Optima and a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro what was orange with black stripes. Also taken were 10 temporary registration tags and keys to several other cars.
O'Fallon Police Department Lt. Mick Hunter said the crime was discovered when an off-duty city firefighter noticed the three cars with Auffenberg temporary registration tags and paper detail sheets in their windows being driven onto Interstate 64 west from U.S. 50. Because of the hour, he thought the situation seemed suspicious and called police.
The thieves got away. Police said they got into the cars by breaking through windows at the dealerships to get keys inside for cars on display.
Auffenberg said this is the fourth time in a year that he's had cars stolen in a similar manner. And he's planning to drastically increase security to make sure it is the last.
"Last year at the Hyundai dealership they took two cars right out of showroom. Drove them right through the glass," Auffenberg said. "At the used cars store we lost two last year and at the Nissan store we lost one.
"We've got to shore up the place," Auffenberg said. "We're going to get security here 24 hours a day. These guys know what they're doing. They're professional and we have a feeling that as the weather gets nice this is going to start happening again and again."
Auffenberg said security cameras at the Auto Mall caught the thieves in action and that the video has been turned over to police for processing. He hopes that leads to the arrest of the people responsible.
Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Metro East Auto Theft Taskforce agent Adam Connor at 618-779-9534 or the O'Fallon Police Department at 624-4545.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.