Police: Increase in Theft of Idling Cars

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook is looking for two persons of interests in connection to a string of car thefts throughout the city.

Authorities say 27-year-old Chasity Henry and 35-year-old wanted Williams Taylor may have information about the crimes after multiple victims left keys in the ignition with the engines running.

The crimes are said to have occurred in home driveways and convenience store parking lots when citizens warm up their vehicles or make a quick stop at a gas station.

Officials say that since January 1 to February 15 of 2016 31 vehicles were stolen because keys were in the ignition, making the thefts crimes of opportunity; 23 of those vehicles have been recovered.

The theft locations are scattered throughout the city including but not limited to:

North Columbia parts of Duke Avenue, Sunset Drive, Alida Street, Easter Street, and other parts of the Greenview community.

South Columbia: Superior Street, Sims Avenue, Harden Street, Millwood Avenue, Rosewood Drive and the Garners Ferry Road area.

Metro Area: (downtown) Gervais Street, Sumter Street, Barnwell Street, and areas of Huger Street.

Authorities say criminals are stealing various brands of vehicles such as: Toyota, Chrysler, Jeep, Honda, Nissan, Lexus, Suzuki, Ford and Dodge.

Investigators say along with Henry and Taylor they have also identified several other persons of interest.

There are city ordinances and state law prohibiting drivers from leaving their cars unattended:

Sec. 12-41 – Unattended motor vehicles

It shall be unlawful for any person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle to leave such vehicle unattended on any street, alley, other public property, or new or used car lot, or on any private parking lot to which the general public is invited and at which there is not attendant, without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition and removing the ignition key from the vehicle; provided, however, the provisions of this section shall not be applicable to vehicles used for public transportation, vehicles used for delivery and emergency purposes, or vehicles owned and operated for governmental purposes by the city, county or state. Whenever any police officer shall find a motor vehicle standing unattended with the ignition key in the vehicle in violation of this section, such police officer shall prepare a citation against the owner of the vehicle and shall affix the citation to the vehicle. The registered owner of a vehicle found in violation shall be held prima facie responsible for any such violation.

Car Theft Prevention Tips:

  • Do not leave your vehicle unattended with keys in the ignition / No idling
  • Always lock your vehicle’s doors
  • Close windows/sunroof
  • Do not leave valuables in plain view
  • Consider anti-theft security devices / alarms

If your car is stolen:

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Make sure you know the license plate and vehicle’s VIN numbers
  • If you see someone stealing your car, try to get a good description of the suspect/suspects

Citizens with information about the crime are encourages to contact Crimestoppers in any of the following ways: call toll-free, 888-CRIME-SC (274-6372), and mark the beginning of the message with “TIPSC,” followed by the tip information or go to www.midlandscrimestoppers.com, and click on the red “Submit a tip” tab.

Categories: Local News