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Salt Lake police on the lookout for car prowlers

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 5:46 p.m. MST

Detective James Rosse inspects his rooftop infrared camera gear during a Salt Lake City Police Department sting operation designed to apprehend car prowlers in downtown Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Now that the holiday season has arrived, police want to remind motorists not to leave valuables in their vehicles.

Whether people are downtown for shopping, a concert, a basketball game or if they live in the city, Salt Lake City police are issuing an annual reminder not to leave gifts, wallets, money or other valuables in their cars.

From mid-August through mid-November, there were 324 reported car prowls — when would-be burglars look for valuable items in parked cars — in Salt Lake City, according to police. That number was actually down from the same time period last year.

But car prowls and car burglaries have been spiking since summer, according to police. Monday night, in an effort to both catch car burglars and be proactive in preventing break-ins, Salt Lake City police set up a sting operation in the area around EnergySolutions Arena.

As the Utah Jazz hosted the Houston Rockets inside the arena, officers — both in uniform and undercover — patrolled parking lots, some using infrared equipment, while also setting up "bait cars" to catch potential burglars.

As Salt Lake City Deputy Police Chief Rick Findlay briefed officers prior to the operation, he told them the area between the Gateway Apartments and about 400 S. State had been a "hot spot" of activity of late for car burglaries. The goal for the evening was to keep heavy surveillance on the area and watch for suspicious activity.

No car burglars were detected in the area, but police want to remind residents that the threat is still there. And many people along the Wasatch Front will be traveling to downtown Salt Lake City over the next month to go shopping.

"Take those packages home, secure them somewhere where they're out of sight," said Salt Lake police detective Rick Wall.

Some departments even advise those who intend to continue shopping after taking some of their merchandise to their vehicle to actually drive around to another parking spot. Police have heard of incidents of burglars who watch for shoppers who drop off their freshly purchased merchandise.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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