Pleasant Grove’s Police Department wants to warn its residents that there has been an increase in thefts from vehicles recently and other communities in Utah County are experiencing the same. While there is always an increase in these types of crimes around the holidays, this year the increase seems to be even greater.
“We would like to remind everyone to lock vehicles and homes,” reads a Jan. 3 post on the Pleasant Grove Police Department Facebook page. “We have been having an increase in vehicle burglaries and vehicle thefts throughout the city and county. Please make sure to remove all property from view and secure your vehicles and do not leave running vehicles unattended.”
“We have had more vehicle burglaries in the last quarter than in previous quarters in 2020,” said Capt. Britt Smith. “People tend to leave more valuables in their vehicles during the holiday months.”
Smith said the majority of vehicles that get broken into are left unlocked, but some have had windows broken.
“However, those with damage had visible items left inside, such as backpacks, purses and laptop bags,” he said.
Other items that are commonly taken include firearms, sporting equipment, skateboards, medication and sunglasses.
The vehicles that have been broken into are generally in high-density housing parking lots and business parking lots.
“However, no area is safe or free of crime,” Smith said. “We have seen vehicles broken into on the street in front of homes, in driveways and even in open garages.”
Smith suggests that, to protect against thefts from their vehicles, people should park in well-lit areas and always lock vehicle doors. Valuables should never be left in the car and if they are, should not be in plain sight.
According to Detective Sgt. Shawn Nielson, vehicle burglary can be very difficult to investigate.
“Stolen items such as sunglasses, loose change, tools and things like this are almost impossible to track,” he said. “Checks, credit cards from purses or wallets are easier to track because we can find out where they are used or where checks are cashed.”
Items with serial numbers can be listed as stolen through the National Crime Information Center or the FBI National Crime Information Center.
“If they are pawned or checked by law enforcement, these items will be reported as stolen,” Nielson said.
Nielson said that valuable items should always be taken out of the vehicle or placed somewhere out of sight, such as locked in a trunk or center console. It is never a good idea to keep any items of value inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle and this includes bags of any kind.
“Even if the bag is closed, it may look like it holds something of value to someone looking in,” he said.
Pleasant Grove is not the only community that is experiencing an increase in thefts from vehicles. According to Sgt. Nick Thomas of the Orem Police Department, during 2020, there were 474 thefts from vehicles in the city. In 2019, there were 391 and in 2018, there were 178.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office, said his department has seen an increase in these types of crimes during this time of year as well. Additionally, there has been an increase in other types of crimes, such as domestic violence and driving under the influence.
Cannon said that he attributes this increase in crime to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.