By Sherylin McMurtrey
“Hot Wheels” may no longer exclusively refer to the toy cars many people know and love.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau reported Honda Civics as the No. 1 stolen car in 13 states including Utah, and the statistics are not any better at BYU.
Since January, four cars and one motorcycle were stolen from BYU premises. BYU had more than 31 vehicle break-ins so far this year, about five of those break-ins happened just Monday night, said BYU Police Department Capt. Michael Harroun.
Harroun said common sense safety for an unattended vehicle can do a lot to prevent theft. He gave vehicle owners a few suggestions to keep their valuables safe.
” A lot of them are vehicles that aren”t locked,” Harroun said. “So that would be the first thing, to lock your car. Secondly, you want to keep all of your valuables out of sight. Thirdly, is just to be observant and report any suspicious activity in the parking lots, whether it”s your car or someone else”s.”
Most thefts occur in housing areas at night, and about 50 percent of those take place at Wyview Park and Wymount, Harroun said. He encouraged people to report suspicious activity to the police, such as people going from car to car looking in windows.
So far this year, the price tag on stolen merchandise from cars on BYU property totals approximately $9,424.
According to BYU police, the most expensive theft was about $3,500 and the lowest around $5. Stolen items range from money, tires, Laptops, CDs, stereos and everything in between.
Anything not nailed down, and even some things that are, have potential to be stolen. To a thief, everything is up for grabs.
Chris, a former car thief from the Salt Lake area who has since changed his ways, said he and his friends would not steal the cars; instead, they would grab whatever they could from the car and then take off.
“We”d strip it right there in a couple of minutes,” Chris said. “We took anything that could be unbolted in less than two minutes – that was our time. It was in-and-out and gone in two minutes. And if you couldn”t do it in less than two minutes, then you wouldn”t do it.”
Salt Lake City Police Department Sgt. James Ferrin said they find a lot of cars that have been stripped for parts. They assume street racers take the engines, fenders and anything else they need to fix their own cars or sell on the black market. The most frequent car they find stripped are Hondas.
“Some of the Hondas are just terribly easy to get into even with locked doors,” Ferrin said. “We get those stolen quite a bit.”
Jeff Carter, a detective for the Salt Lake City Police Department, said cars are stolen all over the city based on the conditions and opportunities around the suspect at the time. He said TV gives a misconception about how cars are stolen; car thieves usually look for a particular make and model of a car they are comfortable getting into and being able to start.
“Hot wiring is really a misnomer,” Carter said. “Usually they damage the steering column to get them started. It”s not like on TV where you see them under the dashboard sparking wires together. No, generally it”s damaging the hardware of the vehicle around the steering column, breaking the column off, and getting into the switch assembly and turning the motor on as if they had a key.”
Carter also wanted to remind people not to leave their car running unattended when the winter months blow in.
“In the wintertime we get quite a few [cars] taken from 7-Elevens,” Carter said. “A guy runs in to get a cup of coffee, leaves his car running, comes back and it”s gone.”