The gift you shouldn’t give car burglars this holiday season

Dec 5, 2022, 10:15 PM | Updated: 10:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITYIt’s the most wonderful time of year. But it’s also when certain crimes of opportunity tend to spike in Salt Lake County. 

Of all the people on your list to buy presents for, a thief probably isn’t one of them. So don’t give burglars a gift by forgetting to lock your car and hide your belongings, Unified police told the KSL Investigators.  

“They’re looking for an easy target,” Unified Det. Doug Lambert said. 

And while you might do most of your shopping online, chances are you’ll be running out for holiday errands at some point. 

Lambert and his colleagues are concerned about a few areas in particular that they’ve identified as hot spots for this sort of crime.

The detective took us to The Shops at Fort Union in Midvale – one of the top destinations for car prowlers so far this year –  according to the department’s crime mapping. The sprawling strip mall’s enormous parking lots make it easy for thieves to go undetected, Lambert said.  

“Because it’s such a densely packed parking lot, criminals would see that as, ‘I could blend in in broad daylight, and no one would ever know,’” Lambert said.  

He demonstrated just how easy it is to fly under the radar while looking for the right opportunity. It only took him a few minutes to spot something a prowler might want: a colorful backpack sitting on the floor of an SUV in plain sight.  

There may be nothing of value in a backpack, but crooks will still grab this sort of bag so they can stash other items inside, Lambert said.  

When he investigates these crimes, surveillance video often points him to potential suspects, he said. When he interviews them, many tell him the same thing, illuminating just how strong a grip substance abuse can have on people with addictions and others around them.  

“The response is, ‘I have a habit. I needed to get my fix, so I needed something to either trade for property or drugs,’” Lambert said. “When somebody is dopesick, they just want something of value quickly so that they can get their fix.”  

On a recent Tuesday, the detective pulled on door handles of several cars parked outside Walmart. In a matter of minutes, he found one left unlocked.  

“That easy,” Lambert said as he held the door open.  

Unified Police Det. Doug Lambert opens the door of a car left unlocked in a Midvale parking lot.

Lucky for the car’s owner, Lambert and the KSL Investigators weren’t trying to steal anything.   

But it’s likely no one would have noticed if we were, said Sgt. Melody Cutler.  

“If you see somebody walking through a parking lot and just open a car door, you don’t even think twice about it,” Cutler said.  

The crimes are predictable, she added. The rate often climbs in the winter. But the top destinations change from year to year.  

Last year, one section of Millcreek – near the 3900 South and State intersection – saw the worst of it. This year, a stretch near 7200 South and State is seeing the most action, followed by the nearby shopping center Lambert brought us to.  

But car prowlers can strike anywhere, Cutler noted.  

“Just because you’re not in a hotspot doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen,” she said.  

The good news? The data shows that car burglaries overall are down this year.  

And while Dec. 2020 brought on the kind of spike police typically expect during the holidays, the numbers trended down in the winter months last year.  

So how can you make sure you don’t become a victim? Is it as simple as making sure your car is less attractive than the one next to it?   

“That’s exactly it,” Lambert said. 

Double check that you’ve locked your doors, he said. Don’t keep anything of value in your vehicle. And if you have to leave a bag or other belongings inside, make sure they’re out of sight.  

Whatever you do, don’t leave a gun in your car. All too often, firearms are stolen and end up in the wrong hands Lambert and Cutler said.  

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you. 

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Americans are using their credit cards more often as the economy opens....
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: The key to saving money on your credit card bills

More Utahns are carrying debt, but the thing is – many of those folks have no idea how much interest they are paying on their debt.
4 days ago
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

AmeriGas customers nationwide Get Gephardt after waiting weeks for propane

Calls to Get Gephardt have come from across the country, all having the same problem: missing propane deliveries. So, where’s the gas?
4 days ago
(Taylorsville Police Department)...
Keira Farrimond and Daniella Rivera

Questions surround convicted rapist’s release as police investigate aggravated sexual assault

Despite admitted anger issues and a recent history of assault, Utah’s Board of Pardons and Parole released a convicted rapist back into the community last month. Now, he is charged with aggravated rape in an attack on a Taylorsville woman he communicated with while in prison.
4 days ago
Grant Clark waited for repairs on his car...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Orem man’s auto repairs take 13 months due to parts shortage

If your car needs minor repairs, be prepared to wait. That warning comes from a Utah County man who had to wait for more than a year for his car to get fixed.
6 days ago
Susan Lee Wilson, attempting to use her phone after another outage. (KSL-TV)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Salt Lake woman battles phone company to fix 12-year-old landline problem

You pay for phone service, so you would expect to receive phone service. But when a Sandy woman’s landline kept going dead for more than a decade, she decided it was time to Get Gephardt.
7 days ago
A police officer walks by a crime scene trailer that is sitting outside the home of Michael Haight ...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera

When home isn’t safe: Experts see patterns, potential warning signs in family shootings

In Utah and on a national level, mass shootings mostly happen at home. While it’s not always possible to predict this type of violence, experts tell the KSL Investigators certain behaviors may predict future violence.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
The gift you shouldn’t give car burglars this holiday season