For The Republic Photos provided by the Columbus Police Department Photos taken by surveillance cameras show a suspect whom police say used credit cards stolen from vehicles throughout Columbus. Those with information concerning the suspect or the case are urged to call Detective Tom Foust at 376-2600.
A rash of brazen, daytime smash-and-grab thefts have left Columbus citizens reeling from unauthorized credit-card charges. Providing a financial double whammy has been insurance-deductible payments to repair the windows of damaged vehicles.
So far this year, they have been occurring at a rate of two every three days.
Through Monday, 38 incidents were reported this year in which vehicle windows were broken to grab purses and other items, police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
Smash-and-grab incidents represent 83 percent of all thefts from vehicles reported in Columbus this year, Myers said. The rest were from unlocked
In four instances, it appears the thief watched local day care facilities, waiting for a woman to leave her vehicle running while taking a child inside, he said. In all four of those cases, the woman returned and discovered her purse had been taken, Myers said.
The thefts have occurred at different locations throughout Columbus, but Myers said many took place at parking garages and lots in the downtown area.
He also emphasized that 80 percent of the smash-and-grab thefts occurred during daylight.
“That is unique, because these incidents usually occur at nighttime,” Myers said. “The daylight thefts tell us they are able to blend in. People are seeing the thieves and not knowing what they are up to.”
Myers said breaking out windows of vehicles is especially cruel during the winter months.
“For many victims, that’s all the transportation they have,” Myers said. “Then, it sets them back because they have to get their windows fixed. On top of that, they have to pay a deductible. So they are out for more than just the property taken during the theft.”
Investigators have suspects, but Myers said he’s hoping that photos taken from surveillance video will allow the public to offer more information.
“Everybody needs to be proactive and vigilant,” Myers said. “The entire community has to work together to get these cases solved.”
One set of photos was taken after a Jan. 24 smash-and-grab outside the Columbus Fit exercise facility at 3475 Trestle Drive. Immediately after credit cards and other items were taken, the thief used the credits cards to make purchases at a convenience store.
Another set of photos were taken following a Feb. 6 theft from a vehicle parked outside the east side Walmart on Whitfield Drive. After credit cards were stolen, they were used at the nearby Dairy Queen, AMC Showcase Columbus 12 movie theater, MC Sports, a convenience store and the Walmart.
“They are taking the credit cards from these thefts and immediately going out and racking them up big time before there’s an alert put out on them,” Myers said.
Myers said the photos from Circle K surveillance cameras at two different stores taken two weeks apart appear to show the same suspect. One store is at 1720 National Road, while the other is at 262 N. Gladstone Ave.
The convenience store chain has different security procedures for in-store credit card purchases and outside credit gas purchases, according to Bruce Landini, vice president for Circle K’s Midwest operations.
When a purchase is made for in-store items over $25, the cashier is required to get not only a signature but also to request identification with a photograph, Landini said.
However, he added only a ZIP-code verification is used for gasoline purchases made at the pump.
“Unfortunately, if an entire wallet is stolen, the thief would likely have the owner’s ID and their ZIP code,” Landini said.
Myers said it’s been more than a week since a smash-and-grab incident has been reported in Columbus, leading police — who think they know who’s responsible — to believe their suspects have fled the area.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.