Smash-and-grab thieves strike across Columbus

Columbus police say thieves are stealing from cars and shopping at local stores.
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Police in Columbus are warning residents about a series of smash-and-grab car break-ins all over the city.

Since January, they've received nearly 40 reports. They say the thieves have even targeted moms during daycare drop-off.

Chassity Sluss now makes sure she locks her car door and hides all belongings when she takes her young daughter to daycare. She recently learned that other moms have been watched and targeted by thieves.

"I mean, if they're watching it for awhile, then obviously they know routines and patterns, what people are doing," Sluss said. "That's insane to think about."

Investigators say crooks are casing out, then stealing from parents' cars. Columbus Child Care Center posted a warning to moms on the front door, as a reminder to lock car doors and hide valuables out of sight.

"There is no question that these individuals are casing certain locations," said Columbus Police Lt. Matt Myers. "The parents take their kids, their small children inside the daycare center and then they've (criminals) gotten in their car and stolen items."

"Yeah, it's scary. It's really scary," said daycare worker Jill Shepherd.

Police say the thefts are all part of a smash-and-grab crime spree happening all over Columbus.

Nearly 40 vehicles have been broken into since January in busy downtown garages, in church parking lots and at daycare centers.

Investigators say it works out to an average of two every three days, with most of the thefts during daylight hours.

"They're looking through vehicles, looking for valuables, then they use whatever - their fist, whatever - to break the window," Lt. Myers explained.

After stealing from cars, police say the thieves acted fast, racking up hundreds of dollars on people's credit cards.

"They aren't even giving them enough time to get the cards canceled," Lt. Myers said.

Investigators say the criminals are spending big bucks at Walmart, Lowe's and convenience stores across Columbus. Police spotted the suspects on surveillance video, using the stolen credit cards at two different Circle K gas stations.

They hope someone recognizes the suspects soon and calls Columbus Police with their whereabouts. Meanwhile, parents are being proactive to protect their cars and precious cargo inside.

"I have my phone, my purse, and my daughter's stuff and ready to go in," Sluss said.

Police are reminding residents of common sense advice we hear lot, but may not always put into practice. To keep from being a victim, keep all valuables out of sight in your car. Investigators say these thieves are looking for easy targets, so if they can't see your stuff, they're not going to take it.