There has been a rash of car break-ins in Aiken County recently, and in most instances all the thieves had to do was lift the door handle.
"Lock. Your. Doors," stressed Sgt. David Turno, a spokesman for the Aiken Department of Public Safety. "The vast majority (of break-ins) tend to be unlocked doors with property in them."
He estimated that 90 percent of the 74 car break-ins that police investigated in Aiken from Sept. 1 to Nov. 19 were from thieves who simply opened the door.
The holiday season - with many shopping bags left in cars in plain sight - won't help matters, he said.
Drivers just need to be smart about securing their cars, Sgt. Turno said.
Roll up the windows, lock all doors and put all valuables out of sight, he said.
Hiding valuables in the trunk won't do any good if the door is unlocked, Sgt. Turno said. Most new cars have an interior latch that opens the trunk.
It's very rare for a thief to actually break the window to get inside a car, he said.
But if they see cell phones, high-end electronics or other expensive devices, Sgt. Turno said, "that could be enough of a temptation for someone to break the window and risk being heard."
Sgt. Turno said that certain areas in Aiken tend to be hit more often than other areas - particularly the south side of the city where there are shopping centers, subdivisions and apartment complexes.
Lt. Michael Frank, a spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, said that from Aug. 1 to Nov. 22, deputies were called out to 84 incidents of breaking and entering autos.
In fact, Sheriff Mike Hunt's gun was stolen from his unmarked patrol SUV a few weeks ago during a spree of car break-ins in his neighborhood. The gun was later recovered.
The car break-ins come in waves, he said, and although the sheriff's office and public safety recently have made arrests, incidents keep happening.
"That didn't stop them, and it's still happening," Sgt. Turno said, of the arrests. "It's such an easy crime to get items that can be pawned."
Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or firstname.lastname@example.org.