COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) — The Columbia County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Office are warning about car break-ins in Columbia County. Suspects are not smashing windows. They are simply checking if a door is left unlocked.

“It’s almost 100 percent avoidable if we simply lock our cars,” Bobby Christine, the District Attorney of the Columbia County Judicial Circuit, said.

Inv. William Bonsack, a financial crimes investigator with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, tells NewsChannel 6 gang members from Columbia, South Carolina are traveling to Columbia County to break into unlocked cars.

“They [gang members] probably accounted for over 40 car break-ins,” Bonsack said.

Those break-ins took place over a two-week period. Suspects were looking for money, electronics and guns.

“That’s how gang members are getting their guns to go back and commit crimes elsewhere,” Bonsack said.

“They’re also stealing some automobiles and using them in crimes,” Christine added.

Many of these suspects were armed.

“They were actually seen holding a pistol in their hands at the time they were going through people’s cars,” Bonsack said. “That presents a really serious problem for our residents.”

The Sherriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices are working with state and federal prosecutors in this investigation. Christine says their team has “already broken up some of it.” But, they say they need the community’s help.

“If we dissuade them from entering, they’ll stop coming back,” Christine said. “If they come into our community and every car they try to unlock is locked, they’re going to move on. Let them go elsewhere.”

Safety tips from Sheriff’s Office

  • Lock your car doors
  • Park your car in a well-lit area
  • Do not keep valuables or keys inside your car
  • If you see someone going through your car, do not confront them on your own. Instead, call 9-1-1