October 13, 2017 10:03:00 AM
Columbus Police Department has received 148 reports of auto burglaries since April, averaging just less than one per day.
These include everything from burglaries where suspects have pilfered through unlocked vehicles to suspects who have actually broken windows to snatch valuables like guns, purses and phones that were left in view, on seats or floorboards.
Leaving those personal items in cars is a problem in Columbus, CPD Community Relations Officer Rhonda Sanders told The Columbus Exchange Club Thursday.
"Purses, the man bags," she said. "... If I could just hop into everybody's back seat every morning and say, 'Hello. This is your local police department. I have so much to do today like patrol your area and make sure you're safe. Please do not leave your purse in your car today.' Because there's somebody who wants something for free that will break that window.
"Your window is going to cost a whole lot more to fix than what you have in that purse," she added.
And the problem is not just relegated to Columbus -- between April 1 and Sept. 30 Starkville Police Department has received 136 reports of auto burglary. In both cities, the burglaries have spanned the city and are not restricted to certain neighborhoods or areas.
The county has significantly less of a problem with auto burglaries. Lowndes County Sheriff's Office received only 28 reports since late May, LCSO Capt. Greg Wright said. He thinks this is due to the lack of retail in the county as compared to cities. Of the 28 reported burglaries, only one occurred outside a business.
Still he, SPD Officer Brandon Lovelady and CPD Capt. Brent Swan all said that most of those crimes are crimes of opportunity -- a burglar or handful of burglars will fan out through a parking lot and try car doors looking to see which are unlocked.
"In the recent past, we have seen very few broken windows or (other) use of force," Lovelady said.
When police do see broken windows, it's because of the reasons Sanders talked about -- someone left something of value in sight in their car.
Law enforcement in all three agencies stressed: Keep car doors locked, park in well-lit areas and leave valuables like purses, shopping packages and firearms in the trunk -- or better yet, don't leave them in the vehicle at all. These are particularly important to remember during fall and the beginnings of holiday shopping season, when law enforcement generally see an increase in property crimes, Wright said.
"Most of these things are just good, old-fashioned common sense," he said.
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