Police believe they have interrupted a string of vehicle burglaries and forgeries in a sting operation that was so successful they almost missed it.
A Salt Lake City couple was arrested after police watched the pair break into a police department vehicle that was left in the parking lot at Southtowne Mall Monday afternoon.Detective Ron Bullock said he left his briefcase and a $12 cellular phone look-alike inside the car, which officers parked near a restaurant in the southwest corner of the mall's parking lot. "By the time we parked the vehicle and got to where we were observing, they were punching out the window. If we had been 30 seconds longer, we would have missed them," he said.
Officers followed the couple out of the parking lot and south on State to 9400 South where they pulled the vehicle over and arrested the husband and wife. Both were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail, where the man remained Tuesday morning in lieu of $3,745 bail that included amounts for two outstanding warrants. The woman was released later Monday.
Police began an intensive search for the burglars Wednesday and had seen the couple at the mall area before, Bullock said.
Officers say they found about a dozen stolen drivers' licenses and other identification, like Social Security and library cards, inside the couple's car. The seized evidence has helped detectives make ties to several other vehicle burglary cases, including two from Friday night that were also reported at Southtowne.
About 150 unsolved cases from as far away as Davis County are being reviewed to see if they have ties to the Monday arrest. Other police agencies involved in sorting out the cases are Woods Cross, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and Murray.
Most of the burglaries occurred in the parking lots of businesses where people were typically away from their cars for at least an hour - like restaurants, movie theaters and fitness spas. None of the victims at Southtowne had been in the mall itself, Bullock said.
Forgery cases are tied to the investigation because suspects in some of the burglaries used checkbooks and drivers' licenses stolen from the vehicles to cash checks at the victims' banks within a matter of minutes after the burglaries took place.