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Our Opinion: Stronger carjacking laws would make streets safer

Our Opinion: Stronger carjacking laws would make streets safer

February 28th, 2019 in Opinion

The Missouri Legislature should give serious consideration to a proposal that would strengthen laws regarding carjacking.

On Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and two Republican state lawmakers held a news conference in which they backed a bill to crack down on carjackings.

Now, carjackers typically are charged with robbery in Missouri jurisdictions. The proposed legislation would allow prosecutors to use the specific crime of motor vehicle hijacking. Those convicted of the offense using a gun would face at least 10 years in prison.

Here in Mid-Missouri, carjacking — knock on wood — hasn't been a big problem. Not all Missouri cities are so fortunate. The St. Louis area had more than 300 carjacking incidents last year, the Associated Press reported.

Schmitt said the statute would "streamline the prosecuting process, increase uniform sentencing, and lead to more accurate statistics relating to carjackings" in Missouri, the AP reported.

Sen. Bob Onder and Rep. David Gregory were in St. Louis on Monday to stump for the proposal.

On one hand, Missouri lawmakers are looking for ways — such as drug courts — to keep people out of prison. A report commissioned by the state says if our state's inmate population increases, Missouri will be faced with having to build two new prisons.

On the other hand, lawmakers are looking for ways to keep people in prison longer, such as the carjacking legislation.

The two pushes aren't necessarily incompatible. We do need to look, in general, for alternative sentencing for some nonviolent crimes. But for crimes that often are violent, such as carjacking, the laws need to be strengthened for the punishment to fit the crime.

We'd like to hear what law enforcement officers and prosecutors have to say about the proposed law.

To us, it seems to make a lot of sense. And it might benefit our community: Carjacking isn't a big problem here, and tougher laws could serve as a deterrent to keep it from becoming a problem in the future.

Central Missouri Newspapers