A revised law in Missouri designed to make it easier to sell older cars for junk has had unintended consequences in the St. Louis area. House Bill 1150 went into effect Aug. 28 to allow any non-functioning cars 10 years old or older to be junked without a title. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reveals car thieves have taken advantage of the junker law to make money.
* Sgt. Tom Naughton, who heads the auto theft unit of the St. Louis County Police Department, told the media outlet the revised law "opens the floodgates for all kinds of criminal activity." He also said thieves can sell junked cars for $200 to $500.
* Naughton also pointed out it's harder to scrap copper wire in Missouri but easier to sell an entire car. Statistics point to a 37 percent increase in thefts of older-model cars since the law took effect as compared to the same period in 2011 for St. Louis County.
* State Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, sponsored the bill as a senator in 2012. He told the Post-Dispatch the purpose of the legislation was to make it easier for rural landowners to dispose of derelict vehicles abandoned on their property.
* Engler blamed the increase in car thefts on local law enforcement. The lawmaker told the newspaper, "There are a lot bigger problems than over-10-year-old car thefts in the metro St. Louis area... and I would have the police concentrate on some of those problems."
* House Bill 1150 revises Missouri's junk vehicle laws. The measure provides, "If a motor vehicle is inoperable and is at least 10 model years old... a scrap metal operator may purchase or acquire such motor vehicle... without receiving the original certificate of title... ."
* The law also provides for parts of cars, not just the entire vehicle. The motor vehicle must be free and clear of any liens before a sale is made. The scrap metal operator must also forward the seller's ID and a bill of sale to the Missouri Department of Revenue.
* Naughton spoke to KMOX about another type of car theft going on in St. Louis. Called "car cloning," thieves steal vehicles and take it to a shop that changes the vehicle identification number (VIN) to another car that isn't reported stolen. Supposedly, that makes it easier for people to sell stolen cars.
* What happens next is when an owner of the non-stolen car tries to have an inspection done, the VIN comes up as a stolen vehicle thanks to the switched identification number. Under Missouri law, cars can be confiscated if computer records show a VIN is a stolen car.
* Naughton revealed to the television station Missouri officials already have a new system in place to deal with car cloning of newer vehicles.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.