SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Law enforcement says auto theft is skyrocketing along the Salt Lake Valley.

Detectives say there are two reasons. Folks are leaving their keys and fabs in their cars, and they’re leaving their vehicles running while going into a convenience store.

“I think it was 187 we saw in the first two months of the year with those two circumstances,” Detective Michael Ruff with the Salt Lake City Police Department tells us.

Salt Lake City is seeing a 73.9 percent increase in vehicle theft.

Diving deeper into the numbers ABC4 News found almost every district is seeing a spike.

DistrictAuto Theft Percentage Increase
District 1:71.4%
District 2:112%
District 3231%
District 4121%
District 5:36%
District 628%
District 7-34%

Det. Ruff adds, “We certainly have seen an increase in those newer cars. Especially with those key fabs, that is something that has really skyrocketed in the last little bit.”

Auto theft is not just a Salt Lake City problem. Unified Police report officers are seeing a 30 percent increase in the crime.

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“It’s widespread and I think it is important that the public knows that. It’s not specific to a part of town or even in the county,” says Sgt. Melody Cutler with Unified Police Department.

Sgt. Cutler says people have a false belief about modern cars with push-button start systems.

“The fallacy of the belief that if you start your car and the key fab is not in it when that car drives away that car will turn off, that is not true. Many of those cars will continue to run. So someone just has to get in that car and it’s theirs,” she says.

Stolen cars aren’t the only problem law enforcement is seeing.

“We kind of see that uptick in people cutting catalytic converters to steal them to sell the metals,” says Det. Ruff.

Sgt Cutler says sometimes the thieves are brazen, “A large amount of stolen catalytic converters [stolen], like right out of somebody’s driveway. People get in there and cut those out. The materials, the metals in there are worth a lot of money so that’s the reason behind those thefts.”

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There are three things law enforcement says improves your chances of keeping your vehicle safe.

  • Park your car in a well-lit area
  • Install surveillance cameras
  • Don’t leave things in your vehicle

Officers say they can recover many of the vehicles that are stolen.

If you see someone acting suspiciously around a vehicle, give them a call to check things out.