The number of cars being broken into have slightly increased this year in Columbia County, and sheriff's deputies say simple steps can prevent motorists from becoming victims.
Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said motorists should remember to secure their vehicles and not leave valuables in plain sight. Though vehicle break-ins can occur anywhere, Morris said deputies have noticed an increase of entering auto complaints from public places such as sporting events, gymnasiums, churches and day care centers.
"At these locations, people tend to leave their valuables in their vehicles while exercising, attending church or dropping their kids off," he said. "The criminals know this, too, and some people are leaving their purses and wallets inside their vehicles in plain view and suffering broken windows and a loss of property as a result."
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1, 323 entering auto complaints were reported to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Morris said. That number is 22 more than the same period last year, which amounts to a 7 percent increase.
"Those numbers fluctuate," Morris said. "We have several months (left) in the year, so at year's end we could actually realize a decrease."
Morris said certain vehicles have interior features, such as stereos, which can't be removed or secured, but motorists can help themselves by securing their belongings in a trunk or taking items with them.
"In some cases it's a crime of opportunity and it's so inviting and so tempting they can't seem to help themselves," Morris said. "Whereas we believe we have several (other) individuals who are making a living doing this."
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