Theft Top Crime in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Police say having something stolen from your car is the most likely way to fall victim to theft in Columbia. This includes anything stolen from inside or outside vehicles. In 2011, the police department had 688 reports of larceny from inside vehicles. It had another 283 reports of larceny of motor vehicle parts, for a total of 971 thefts from motor vehicles in 2011.

The total number of thefts reported in Columbia for 2011 was 3,324. That means thefts from motor vehicles made up a little more than 29 percent of all thefts in 2011. Larceny from vehicles has made up about 28 percent of all thefts from January through June of this year.

The second largest theft problems in Columbia are those from buildings and shops. Theft from shops accounted for 24 percent of thefts in 2011 and theft from buildings accounted for 23 percent, making them a close second and third behind theft from motor vehicles. But thefts from shops and buildings are not classified as "personal thefts." The second largest personal theft problem in Columbia is identified as "other" by the Columbia Police Department. This includes theft of personal property from outside or around homes and made up about 19 percent of thefts in Columbia in 2011.

Crime analyst for the Columbia Police Department, Jerry East, said burglaries and theft from motor vehicles tend to go hand-in-hand. The number of burglaries reported in 2011 was 798, about 170 less than the number of reported thefts from vehicles.

East said vehicle break-ins are not commercially driven, meaning they happen most often in neighborhoods. "Certain things about areas invite more crime," East said. He said the largest number of larceny reports come from areas with high density, specifically "high density duplex areas."

Columbia police say the best thing residents can do is keep their vehicle doors locked and windows closed when the car is unattended. Other ways people can prevent a break-in is by keeping electronics or anything of value out of visible sight, parking in well-lit areas as close to buildings as possible or a locked garage at night, setting a car alarm if vehicle has one, and removing keys from the vehicle.