A look at car break-in data in Columbia, the Midlands after 100-plus cars damaged in one night

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 7:45 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A recent overnight crime spree is putting a spotlight on a persistent problem in the Midlands: car break-ins.

According to the Columbia Police Department, more than 100 cars were broken into at three separate apartment complexes overnight Thursday.

During the rash of break-ins, more than 70 cars were broken into at the Broad River Trace Apartments near Riverbanks Zoo.

15 miles away, officers responded to more break-ins at the 500 Forest Apartments and 42 Magnolia Apartments on Forest Drive.

No arrests have been made as of Thursday, but a Columbia Police spokesperson said that investigators with the Property Crimes Unit are working on leads.

WIS obtained incident reports from the thefts, which show that a woman was walking her dog at around 5:20 A.M. at Broad River Trace when she noticed a large hammer-like tool among all the broken glass and called the police.

Latrice Bond, whose car was broken into, is urging vigilance.

“Always be aware of your surroundings,” she said. “This was in the early A.M. time and you know, you never know what’s around the corner, especially the place is well-lit but you never know.”

Columbia Police data shows that the number of car break-ins so far in 2023 is down slightly compared to last year, but more than 1,200 cars have been broken into since Jan. 1.

From January 1-September 26, 2022, there were 1001 car break-in-related incidents within the city’s jurisdiction, and 1341 cars were damaged.

Through Wednesday, there have been 963 incidents this year, and 1296 cars damaged.

Lexington County Sheriff’s Department data shows that the number of thefts from motor vehicles has trended down in the last several years, with 954 in 2018, 871 in 2019, 856 in 2020, 770 in 2021, 778 in 2022, and 417 thus far in 2023.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has investigated 1,418 incidents of theft from motor vehicles in the last calendar year.

Lexington Police have investigated 90 such incidents during the same period.

In more than two dozen of those cases, guns were stolen from cars, data show.

While Columbia Police said that no guns were taken in this latest string of car break-ins, a recent review of FBI data from the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety showed that South Carolina’s capital city had the third-highest rate of guns stolen from cars in the United States.

Law enforcement officials, including Columbia Police Chief W.H. “Skip” Holbrook, have urged citizens to lock up their guns, and not leave them in cars.

“Take heed to what law enforcement is telling you,” Joyce Bell, who lives in Columbia, said. “Lock up your belongings and try to be a more proactive citizen is what we need to be, more proactive. If you’re going to be carrying firearms, be responsible for it.”

Officers are still working to find out whether these thefts are connected.

Anyone with information about the break-ins is urged to contact CRIMESTOPPERS.

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