The Metro East Auto Theft Task Force is assisting Columbia police in the investigation of two vehicles stolen early Thursday morning and several others entered.
Shortly before 2 a.m., a marked Columbia police vehicle heard a car alarm sounding in the 400 block of Wilson Drive and went to investigate. This responding officer observed a black 2007 Dodge Dakota driving in that area with its lights off and attempted to pull it over. The truck fled the stop attempt and continued west on Rueck Road at a high speed before crashing into a picket fence in the 600 block of North Main Street.
Multiple subjects exited the crashed truck and evaded apprehension, prompting a search for the individuals, police said. A K-9 unit searched the area but was unable to locate any suspects.
The Dodge Dakota, which was recovered following the crash, turned out to be stolen from the Wilson Drive area, police said. It was unlocked with its keys left inside at the time it was stolen.
Police believe the suspects arrived in Columbia and escaped in a silver Ford four-door sedan with Illinois plates Q578492, which had been reported stolen earlier from the Alton area.
Another unlocked vehicle with its keys inside, a silver 2014 Toyota sedan with Illinois plates BH98776, was stolen off Wilson Drive about the same time as the Dodge Dakota, police said. A Dupo police officer observed this car on I-255 and it was last seen traveling west into Missouri.
Police are still looking for both the silver Ford and silver Toyota.
In addition, nine unlocked cars in the 400 block of Wilson Drive, 400 block of Fairfax Drive and 1000 block of Arizona Drive were entered overnight, Columbia police said. Police believe the suspects were looking for keys inside to steal these vehicles.
An Illinois State Police crime scene unit responded to the area to assist in the investigation.
Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to call Columbia police at 618-281-5151.
Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul strongly encouraged residents to keep their vehicles locked overnight and to store all keys elsewhere.