COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Police are investigating three vehicle thefts Monday that occurred in less than three hours and involved a common factor.
"In all three cases, the vehicle owner left their car running, unattended and warming up in the parking lot or the driveway," Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Dave Broadhead said. "And when they came back out to get in their cars, they were gone."
The thefts occurred between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. The first vehicle, a 2004 Honda Accord with Texas plates, was taken from the Pinnacle Highland Apartments at 2100 E. Bengal Blvd. (7600 South).
Approximately 40 minutes later, a gray 2002 Nissan Altima was taken from the Santa Fe Apartments at 1550 Fort Union Blvd. Within another 35-40 minutes, a third vehicle, a 2005 Acura TSX, was stolen from a home near 7100 South and 2800 East, Broadhead said.
Police don't currently have any suspect information but believe more than one individual is likely responsible.
"We don't know exactly who we're dealing with, but because there were three (thefts) and they happened relatively close in time, we feel that it was probably a group of people working — possibly an auto theft ring," Broadhead said.
In that 30-second window (the driver went inside his house) the car was gone. It's got to be people that are out looking for that type of situation.
–Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Dave Broadhead
The vehicles involved are makes and models "frequently stolen in the valley," he said. Still, one of the vehicle owners reported that his car was stolen in the time it took him to take his dog into his home.
"In that 30-second window, the car was gone," Broadhead said. "It's got to be people that are out looking for that type of situation."
The incidents prompted police to sound a warning to vehicle owners.
"Please don't be a victim or allow yourself to be a victim by leaving your car unattended and unlocked and running," Broadhead said. "The safest thing would be to leave a couple minutes early so you can go out and be in the car while you're warming it up."
Neighborhoods and freeways in the area were checked after the thefts were reported. Officers continued their search Monday afternoon.
"We're still looking," Broadhead said. "Hopefully we can catch someone out driving."
The Nissan Altima had Utah license plates, with the number Y401SF. The Acura TSX also had Utah plates, A925VH. Anyone who sees the vehicles or has information about their location has been asked to call police at 801-840-4000.