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AMERICAN FORK — Police said they believed Wednesday a ring of experienced thieves was likely behind multiple heists over the weekend and perhaps others in recent months.
Detectives said they believed four thefts of vehicles, trailers and off-road vehicles in Pleasant Grove, American Fork and Lehi were all connected and neighbors raised the possibility the thieves may have made another stop in Spanish Fork.
Cody and Sheena Cook said they were asleep Sunday at around 3 a.m. when Sheena Cook heard a noise that made her think someone was trying to break into their house.
"So I got woke up, ran out the front door, look down the street and I see my trailer being pulled by a truck," Cody Cook said. "I actually was no-shoes, half-dressed, running down the street and then I realized, oh my heck, I can't catch them!"
The trailer also had the couple's tracked ATV with it.
He had surveillance cameras, and his first inclination was to check them.
"We need the license plates, find the license plates," he recalled thinking. "Then we find out the truck they used to steal our stuff was a stolen truck."
Lt. Josh Christensen with the American Fork Police Department said investigators in his department had linked the series of thefts back to Pleasant Grove, where a truck was stolen about an hour prior to the theft at the Cook residence.
Christensen said it appears the stolen truck was used in the other heists in American Fork and Lehi.
He said 22 minutes after the Cooks' ATV and trailer were stolen, the group stole an enclosed trailer several blocks away. The thieves then apparently wrapped up in Lehi with the theft of an RZR UTV.
"Right now it's appearing that we have a little bit of a theft ring or something to that manner going on," Christensen said.
Christensen said the thieves used tactics like quietly rolling vehicles out of driveways and away from homes to not alert homeowners or neighbors.
The Cook family said they had learned through social media of another truck theft earlier the same night in Spanish Fork, but KSL was unable to independently confirm Wednesday evening the connection of that theft to the others.
Christensen said while detectives don't know who is responsible for the thefts, the proficiency displayed narrows the pool of potential suspects in the area.
"When stuff like this happens, it definitely makes you feel uneasy," Sheena Cook said.
The Cooks said they wanted to share what happened to them to raise awareness. While police encouraged people to make themselves harder targets by locking vehicles and stowing ATVs and trailers away from the street, the couple also urged others to watch for cars and people they don't recognize in their neighborhoods.
In their case, they believe their home may have been scouted ahead of time.
"Mine was locked up always until I hooked it to my truck," Cody Cook said. "It just so happened that they caught it within hours after I unlocked it."
He hoped the thieves might eventually be caught.
"They're getting smart," Cook said. "We just need to come together as a community and get smarter."
Anybody with information was asked to call the American Fork Police Department at 801-763-3020.