Car thefts skyrocket when temps drop, police warn

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SALT LAKE CITY — When temperatures drop, the number of car thefts typically sky rocket. Police are warning Utahns against leaving their idling cars alone to warm up.

Many people warm their car up before they have to leave the house in the mornings and stay inside until the car is ready. Unfortunately, your idling car turns into bait, waiting to be swiped by a thief.

Every year, during the cold winter months, the opportunity for someone to steal your car goes up.

And the Salt Lake City Police Department says that's because of all cars, sitting around in just about every neighborhood. Salt Lake City resident Nate Ellington said he usually warms up his car before he leaves for work but hasn't had any problems yet. Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Heiden said you can never be too careful.

It just takes a broken window and now they've got your keys and maybe the keys to your house are on there, which leads to so many more things.

–Sgt. Robin Heiden

"It just takes a broken window and now they've got your keys and maybe the keys to your house are on there, which leads to so many more things," Heiden said.

The proof is in the numbers. Just last week during the major cold front, detectives found 47 idling and unattended cars, all within a three hour period.

"It's miserable out there in the morning and our cars are covered in ice, and it's easier to idle them and let them thaw out," Heiden said. "It's nice to get into a nice warm car. Unfortunately it also provides a nice warm car to somebody who wants to steal it."

In 2011, a city ordinance passed banning people from letting their cars run for more than 2 minutes. The Salt Lake City Police department said many residents aren't following the ordinance and might not even know about it.

"I try very hard to not idle because I'm well aware of the anti-idling ordinance," said resident Pamela Speers. "So I personally would not do it unless I was in (my car)."

This issue isn't isolated to Salt Lake. Departments across the state and country have recognized this growing problem and are urging residents to take the steps and prevent their car from being stolen.

Heiden said the best thing you can do to prevent car theft is to stay with your car when it's turned on.


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Haley Smith


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