COLUMBIA – The Columbia Police Department is facing a recent uptick in car thefts.
CPD announced last week that there had been 39 reports of stolen vehicles over the past 30 days. Eleven of these cases occurred during a two-day period on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.
Christian Tabak, the public information officer for CPD, said this is a trend that is concerning.
“We have been seeing an increased risk of car theft across Columbia as a whole,” Tabak said.
Tabak also said that while many of the thefts have come from the east campus neighborhood near MU, stolen cars have been reported across the area. While the increase is one of the department’s top priorities, Tabak says that most of these incidents are preventable.
“These are crimes of opportunity,” Tabak said. “For the most part, what you’ll see when you’re watching any kind of Ring video or other camera footage is that criminals will come along, try a car. If it’s not unlocked, they’ll move on.”
Austin Vaughn is a resident of northern Columbia. He says his girlfriend’s car was stolen from his house last week.
“It was there at 12:32, and at 12:37, it was gone,” Vaughn said.
This is the third incident of someone close to Vaughn having their vehicle stolen. He says both his cousin and friend had their cars stolen this calendar year. Vaughn says he has learned a lot about protecting your vehicle from these incidents.
“Even if you’re going to the gas station, they don’t care, they’re going to steal it if they want it,” Vaughn said. “Best thing you can do is just lock your vehicle and take the keys out. .
CPD is urging citizens to take similar precautions.
“Make sure you lock your car, definitely never leave your vehicle running unattended, even if you are going into a gas station for 5 seconds,” Tabak said. “Don’t leave a spare car key in there, it’s something a criminal will take advantage of.”
On top of these recommendations, CPD put up several digital road signs across the city in July reminding people to lock their cars and hide personal belongings from sight to prevent break ins.
The Ashland Police Department also suggested removing garage door remotes from your vehicle so your garage stays secure, after the department received several break-in reports over the weekend.
“Bonus tip: set an alarm on your phone to remind you to double check if you locked your vehicle and closed your garage door,” APD wrote on Facebook.
If you are the victim of a car theft or break in, Tabak says to call 3-1-1, not 9-1-1, to file a report. More information on what to do if your car is stolen or broken into can be found on the police department’s website.