The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspects in a string of auto burglaries that have continued to occur for the past several months.
Sergeant Spencer Cannon said that criminals normally handle these car burglaries differently. Some of them only look for electronics and CDs, some look for cash and loose change and others, as in the case with these incidents, look for credit or debit cards.
Cannon believes the perpetrators may have been watching people before leaving the area, then gaining access to the cars when no one was around. The suspects then gained entry to the cars by using some kind of device, possibly a screwdriver, to punch in the lock on the door handle where the key normally goes.
The credit and debit cards that were stolen were at times hidden and other times not.
“We believe it’s possible that some of these are related, that they are being done by a group, but we don’t have proof of that yet,” Cannon said. “We’ve had some at the parking lot of Vivian Park in Provo Canyon, the Bridal Veil Falls parking lot and the latest one we had was in the Dry Creek Trailhead parking lot (Lehi). It’s frustrating to see.”
Immediately after stealing the credit or debit cards, sometimes from multiple cars, the suspects would head to stores like Target, BestBuy, Ulta Beauty Supply, Simply Mac and more to make purchases.
These purchases ranged from about $100 up to $1,000-$2,000. A large amount of the purchases would include cash cards as well, which are almost impossible to trace.
The press release said that one instance had two female suspects buying $2,200 in cash cards and almost $220 in merchandise. Five different credit or debit cards were used for this transaction, which were all stolen from one car.
The thefts also were done at several popular hiking or walking trails, where people may not feel the need to walk with their wallets or credit cards. Cannon said he has done the same himself, leaving things behind in his car while hiking or walking on a trail.
“They probably do suspect that people do that and they evaluate what their pattern or choices are going to be when they leave their cars like that,” Cannon said. “Most of these cases have been a short time span, within one and two hours.”
Cannon did say the department has received some tips on possible suspects but no arrests have been made to date. He added that if these suspects are locally based, it does increase the chances that officers can find them but if these suspects are just passing by, it could be tough.
The suspects, if caught, could face misdemeanor charges for breaking into the cars, as well as felony charges due to the amount of money that was spent on the stolen cards.
As for advice, Cannon said that even if items are hidden in a car, the car could still be at risk of being broken into.
While the trunk may be a better place to conceal valuables, according to Cannon, he suggested that people do not leave any valuables, wallets or credit cards inside of their cars.
If anyone has information on the suspects or the car burglaries, they are asked to call the Utah County Sheriff’s office at (801) 851-4000 or the Central Utah 911 dispatch at (801) 794-3970.