Richland County authorities say they've arrested five suspects in the vandalism and break-ins of dozens of vehicles in Richland and Lexington counties and the city of Columbia.
They've been linked with breaking into at least 71 Dodge or Chrysler vehicles since the beginning of June, damaging the driver-side door and forcing their way inside.
Sheriff's Deputy Curtis Wilson says, “We do know that some of these individuals were part of a gang and other individuals were affiliated with gangs. But of course, when you're affiliated you might as well be a part of them because you're hanging out and you're doing the things that they do as well. And as you know with Sheriff Leon Lott, our job is to let gangs know that they're not welcome.”
Wilson says it's not known whether the incidents were part of a gang initiation rite or a requirement for membership.
Charged with malicious injury to property and larceny are Donald Wittich Jr. and Anthony Canada – both age 22, 25-year-old Corey Anderson, 26-year-old Dwayne Burgess, and a 16-year-old.
Wilson says the juvenile has also been charged with murder in the city of Columbia, and investigators believe the weapon used may have been stolen from one of the burglarized vehicles off Longcreek Drive.