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Salt Lake City Sees Jump in "Warm-up" Car Thefts

Phil Long via Creative Commons

A recent spike in car thefts has Salt Lake City police saying to residents: “don’t give your car away”. They say many of the thefts could have easily been prevented.  

It’s 8 am and nearly freezing outside as you rush to start the car. You go back inside to herd the kids and grab the rest of your belongings. When you return, your car is gone. It might be hard to believe, but more than 60 people in Salt Lake City have fallen victim to such thefts in the last two months, despite police efforts to warn residents about leaving cars alone with the keys in the ignition. 

“We’re going the wrong direction,” says Salt Lake City Police Detective Greg Wilking. He says if residents want to warm up their cars before heading out, they should stay with their vehicles.

“We’re finding most of these are joy ride situations which is a crime of opportunity,” Wilking says. “A car left running. They jump in it. They use it as a mode of transportation from point A to point B. So we are recovering a lot of them but it’s a major inconvenience and it’s a major drain on our resources.”

Just this past Monday, six cars were stolen in Salt Lake City. Every car had a key already inside. Four of the six cars were warming up, according to police. The majority of so-called warm-ups are being stolen on the city’s west side, where Wilking says there is more foot traffic.

He says the department is working with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office to better monitor repeat offenders. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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