Columbia residents impacted by rise in theft from motor vehicles
COLUMBIA - Micah Baker has had his car broken into three times since he moved to Columbia seven years ago.
"The very first time it was personal items. A hand knitted hat, there was a skateboard in there and they might’ve taken a few cds. The second time my car was robbed they had taken my wallet out of there," he said. "I had left my garage door open and they had actually came in and broken into my vehicle and taken my wallet. I had to cancel my cards and get a new driver's license."
The third time was in front of his home and he didn't know it happened until a few days later.
$332,000 worth of property was reported stolen from motor vehicles in Columbia this year, and the number continues to increase, according to a news release by the Columbia Police Department.
Bryana Larimer, civilian public information officer, said these crimes are opportunistic.
"A lot of times thieves are going and checking doors and if the opportunity presents itself because the door's unlocked they'll often scavenge the vehicle, look in the center console, the glove box, and take anything that is quick access," she said.
Columbia resident Danielle White has also felt the increase in theft from motor vehicles.
“This was about two months ago. Of course the one day that our doors weren't locked someone had broken in and they had taken an iPhone charger, all the change that was in the console, a Garmin GPS system, which was about 10 years old, and a pair of sunglasses," White said.
As of October 20, the Columbia Police Department has taken 655 reports of thefts from motor vehicles. That is 207 more reports than the same time last year.
The report adds, of the 655 reports, 99 of them include firearms and firearm-related accessories being stolen.
Larimer suggested removing guns completely or purchasing a lock box for the firearm and securing it inside of the vehicle.
"People are leaving their firearms in their vehicles, sometimes multiple firearms in the center console or in the glove box, places that they are not really secure," she said. "So when these people are then going in, whether they are breaking in the vehicles or most cases the vehicle is left unlocked they're retrieving these firearms and they are getting in the hands of the people we don't want these firearms in the hands of."
The increase in theft has sparked safety concerns.
"I don’t feel safe with as many car robberies happening here," Baker said.
White agrees safety is a top priority.
"The part that’s hard is the sense of security that’s lost. The fact that we have to make sure that our doors are locked even though we live in a really safe area," she said.
Larimer said these crimes can happen to anyone.
"It's not one particular area that's being targeted. This is happening all over the city of Columbia. And so anyone can be a victim. I think that we need to get out of the mindset as citizens that it won't happen to me because it absolutely can," she said.
Irwin Schneider, president of the Columbia Neighborhood Watch said a watch program may improve security.
"I'd encourage getting a neighborhood watch started and hopefully it will result in less crime," Schneider said.