Study shows a 50% increase in vehicle theft in Utah since 2019

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — A study conducted by Vivint using FBI and National Insurance Crime Statistics showed a 50% increase in vehicle thefts in Utah since 2019, making it the second-highest percentage increase in the country in that period. This follows a country-wide trend of over 406,000 vehicles stolen in 2020 across the U.S., showing a significant increase from 2015, in which 188,000 were stolen. The rise in vehicle thefts doesn’t escape Summit County, as the sheriff’s department says there has been a clear jump in incidents since 2019, when the county went from just 17 to 44.

Summit County’s increase in vehicle theft has prompted the Summit County Sheriff’s Department to make concentrated efforts both after a vehicle is stolen and preventive measures. With two months left in 2022, the sheriff’s department has already seen 29 thefts within its jurisdiction. Among the most common areas for vehicle theft to occur are residences, parking garages or lots, and along a highway, street, or similar location. Thefts at a person’s home had almost 500,000 more occurrences than the other two categories in the study, making it a key area of target for preventive measures.

“Our deputies patrol neighborhoods day and night and look for obvious things to prevent theft, burglaries, etc. Deputies will contact owners if vehicles have windows rolled down. They will also contact homeowners and remind them to put property inside the garage, such as bicycles, yard equipment, and other items, along with a suggestion for them to close their garage doors. Deputies will also patrol and look for suspicious people and vehicles. Deputies make traffic stops, field contacts through casual contact and conversation, and respond to calls for suspicious circumstances,” said Captain Andrew Wright of the Summit County Sheriff’s Department.

The department has placed importance on doing what it can to prevent theft, but they have resources for finding stolen items and measures in place that get shared with other agencies. Help also comes from public tips, such as in the recent case of an apparently abandoned car that turned out to be a recently stolen vehicle.

“We have two patrol vehicles that are equipped with LPRs (license plate readers). This equipment and software scan license plates as the deputies drive around or if they are parked on a roadway. The license plates are quickly run through a database and it alerts the deputy if the vehicle is stolen, if a person is wanted, etc.,” said Captain Wright.

Visible items of value are a frequent cause of vehicle burglary that could lead to the vehicle itself being stolen. It could be as simple as putting a phone or purse in a non visible area. A highlighted suggestion from the study is to park a vehicle in an area of high visibility, such as close to the entry of a business or where people are likely to be passing by. Parking in a well-lit area also provides a reduced risk. While at home, it is suggested to install exterior lighting and even motion-triggered lights that can act as a deterrent.

“We share safety information on KPCW radio, local media, our social media and have done news stories to remind residents to keep valuables out of their vehicles, lock vehicle doors, and most importantly, DO NOT leave car keys/fobs inside your vehicle. We find that many stolen vehicles are left unlocked and keys/fobs inside the vehicle,” said Captain Wright.

Percentage increase in vehicle thefts from 2019 to 2020
Percentage increase in vehicle thefts from 2019 to 2020; Courtesy of Vivint

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