COLUMBUS, Ga. – Car theft is on the rise in Columbus.
Police need the public’s help to identify two suspects who stole vehicles earlier this month.
On July 5, a green truck (pictured above) was stolen off Lumpkin Road. The vehicle was involved in an accident and was eventually recovered, but the suspect (pictured) is still at large.
Police are looking for another suspect they believe stole a 2006 Ford Explorer of Buena Vista Road on July 12 (pictured below).
According to the Columbus Police Department, citizens are leaving their cars unattended with the keys inside.
Most of this happens at gas stations to people who are in a rush and think their vehicle will be safe for just a few minutes.
According to CPD, criminals are using the vehicles to commit other crimes, like home burglaries; they’re seeing a lot of older model trucks being stolen for this reason.
“During the course of burglaries, they’re able to take those pickup trucks, back them up to a residence and load more stolen items back into the pick up truck,” said Det. Nathan Tooley.
Tooley said when police start looking for a vehicle, criminals dump it and use another one.
Tooley said there appears to be a crew of about 15 people or more who are committing these crimes all over town.
According to CPD, these criminals are waiting outside gas stations or other busy locations looking for cars that are running attended by their owners; they wait until the owner goes inside and that’s when they jump in and take off.
A spokesperson from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) said it’s a nationwide problem.
“People have a false sense of security,” said Carol Kaplan. “We tend to lead very busy, chaotic lives and we’re constantly looking for convenience. It is these brief moments of opportunity that thieves will seize upon.”
According to a study by the NICB, there were nearly 1,300 vehicle thefts in Columbus in 2014.
The most popular vehicles stolen in Columbus are Chevy and Ford pick up trucks, followed by the Honda Accord.
In 2014, Columbus was ranked 23rd in the country for vehicle thefts.