PARK CITY — As Utahns make their way to the mountains for hiking and biking before summer comes to an end, law enforcers are encouraging residents to not only take valuables out of their cars, but also lock the doors.
This week, KSL.com reported on a 19-year-old homeless man’s extensive spending spree that was financed in part by other people’s credit cards and Venmo accounts that he had stolen or accessed by breaking into cars parked at Rock Canyon trailhead in Provo, according to charging documents.
But this isn’t the only case of car burglaries making its way through the court system.
On Monday, Austin James Kunzi, 25, of South Jordan, made his first appearance in court. He is charged in one case in 3rd District Court with burglary, a second-degree felony; and theft, a third-degree felony; and in another case with two counts of unlawful possession of a bank card, a third-degree felony; and two counts of unlawful possession of a bank card, a class B misdemeanor.
On June 14, a car parked at a trailhead along Parkview and Matterhorn drives in Park City had a wallet taken from it while the owner was hiking, and two credit cards were promptly used in Salt Lake County by Kunzi, according to charging documents.
Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said it was just one of many car break-ins at trailheads over the summer.
“There was a good three solid months of us having multiple-a-week (incidents),” he said. “The lion’s share of our vehicles burglaries were at trailheads.”
In addition to burglars smashing out car windows, in many cases vehicles were simply left unlocked, he said. Wright said recently, the number of car burglaries has subsided, something he doesn't know whether it can be attributed solely to Kunzi’s arrest.
But Kunzi has a long history of breaking into vehicles, according to court records.
On Aug. 8, a man who accidentally left his garage open had his backpack with his laptop inside stolen from his car, according to charging documents. Two days later he found his laptop for sale on KSL.com and police set up an undercover buy, during which time Kunzi was arrested, the charges state.
In 2018, Kunz was charged with stealing a backpack and wallet from a car while the owner was inside a church, according to charging documents. In a separate 2018 case, Kunzi stole a backpack out of a car in Murray and sold the laptop inside, charges state.
In 2017, during another arrest, Kunzi told police “he uses other people’s credit cards to purchase food,” according to charging documents.
As for the rash of trailhead thefts over the summer, Wright said just like when a car is parked anywhere else, a person should never leave their valuables in a vehicle.
“A better option is if you don’t need to take valuables with you when you go to a trailhead, leave those behind at your house,” he said.
Wright said criminals are looking under car seats and in trunks.
“They know that law enforcement is saying hide your valuables,” he said.