FESTUS, Mo. – Thieves continue to target marijuana dispensaries across the St. Louis region.

On Monday, Festus police interrupted a break-in at Star Buds Cannabis Dispensary that morning.

“They left because they heard us coming,” said Chief Tim Lewis, Festus Police Department. “We saw them but we’re limited on our pursuit policies to violent felonies. This didn’t reach the criteria of violent felonies, so we had to let them go.”

The suspects fled the scene and headed north on Interstate 55 in two dark-colored Hyundais that had been reported stolen.

Festus police and other law enforcement agencies are working together to catch the thieves, believed to be a group of five or six young men.

“This isn’t just something that happens in Festus,” Lewis said. “This is going on all over the St. Louis metropolitan area and we’re working in connection with everybody to try and tie things together. It’s like putting together a puzzle. That one little piece doesn’t mean anything but put it all together and you’ve got a pretty good picture of what you’re looking at.”

The same suspects broke into two other dispensaries Monday morning. They broke into Good Day Farm Dispensary just before 4:25 a.m. Around 4:30 a.m., they took boxes of merchandise, but no cannabis or cash, from Swade Dispensary on Delmar.

Police said the thieves used their vehicle to try to smash through the back door of the business.

Lewis said the owner at Star Buds Dispensary had recently increased its safety measures.

“The key to this whole event is the owner had gone above and beyond to protect his business, his property, and his product,” he said. “He put in extra security measures. That’s what saved the day. When you see what happened on his system, most doors wouldn’t have lasted a car ramming, it would have been over. But not him.”

Star Buds was closed to the public while employees continued to clean up and repair the damage.

If you have information about the dispensary break-ins over the last month, you’re asked to contact the police.