Unlocked cars inviting thieves in Cedar City

By Dawn Aerts

Iron County Today

CEDAR CITYL–If you leave valuables like wallets, purses, coins or weapons in your vehicle and neglect to lock your doors, you will invite theft, said Sgt. Jerry Womack, Cedar City Police Department.

In July, there was a ‘string’ of auto thefts, several in the Fiddler’s Canyon neighborhood and others along Northfield Road.  “At present we still don’t have any suspects on who burglarized nine (unlocked) vehicles on one Monday night,” said Womack, “But there is a common thread – unlocked cars.”

According to Womack, this series of burglaries involved taking various amounts of cash, from coin holders and purses as well as two missing firearms. “We got a lot of calls early one Tuesday morning following a Monday night holiday weekend.”

So what did they incidents have in common?  Access and stealth.

The Cedar City Police Department sees vehicle break ins and theft throughout the year, but those numbers can increase over summer months, during the winter holiday season and may otherwise ebb and flow.  “We saw the recent vehicle burglaries on Red Cedar Circle and in places where you can more easily access parked cars.”

Womack has no suspects, but it may likely involve youth.  “From my experience it was probably younger people (teens) who were just looking for things to steal – if there’s something left on the seat, on the floor, or notice through the window, they figure they won’t get caught.”

Evidence can be sparse when doors are unlocked. Investigators respond to the reports of vehicle burglary and theft, but there is rarely enough evidence to pursue.

“I think we’ve only had a handful who were caught on a camera, or sometimes the suspect(s) will drop something, like a cell phone,” said Womack, “But in general we don’t take (door) fingerprints and there usually isn’t a witness.”

Over the years, local officers have seen upticks in vehicle incidents and what they see as an ‘opportunistic’ crime.

Cedar City officer reports show 100 auto burglaries in 2015, 103 incidents in 2016; 88 in 2017 and 82 reported so far in 2018.  “There is also some newer technology coming out where an officer will be able to ‘swab’ DNA off the car door or handles, and a lot of the newer cars have an alarm system at work,” said Womack, “But for now, camera systems and the technology is expensive to use.”

While neighborhoods full of parked cars in driveways are attractive to thieves, they are also partial to golf-courses and shopping venues.  “It’s something that only takes a short amount of time, especially if the doors are unlocked,” said Womack of the stats.

In the more recent cases, two guns were found missing with an estimated $1,000 in cash or valuables taken.  “The best way to avoid having things stolen,” said Womack of parked vehicles, “is to lock your doors” and keep things out of sight.

Caption:  Cedar City Police Department spokesperson, Sgt. Jerry Womack reports an ebb and flow in vehicle, auto break in’s and theft when owners leave cars doors unlocked giving would-be thieves an opportunity to ‘grab and go’ with purses, wallets, guns or loose change.

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