String of car break-ins on the rise north of Jefferson City

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COLE COUNTY - A string of car break-ins has swept through Cole County and it is having an affect on local law enforcement's ability to focus on other crime in the area.

The Cole County Sheriff's Department reported 12 cases in the past two weeks. The pattern started around three months ago.

"We have individuals going out there searching for vehicles that are unlocked, they're opening the cars up and rifling through the stuff, not only inside the interior, but going through the glove compartment and the trunk," said Cpt. John Wheeler.

He said 99 percent of all car thefts were due to people not locking their cars.

"It's an easy fix. We're really encouraging people to be extra vigilant to lock their cars, but also warn their neighbors to make sure they do too."

Wheeler said being extra careful can help law enforcement be more effective in other areas of the community.

"With the limited man power that we have, while we're spending that 45 minutes to an hour taking the report, we could be out there working on other cases," he said.

Even local residents admit it can be a simple mistake when people are on the go.

"My son is one year old and when I'm trying to carry him and carry all our stuff, I get three or four blocks away, I always ask myself 'did I lock my car?,' and I always think 'it'll be fine for a couple minutes,'" Samantha Cokely said.

Most of the theft is happening north of Jefferson City, near Binder State Park.

Anyone with information on specific theft crimes or notice any suspicious activity should contact the Cole County Sheriff's Department or the Jefferson City Police Department.