Increases in Provo crime rates have compelled Utah County law enforcement to urge residents to take stronger precautions.
A comparison of Provo crimes per 1,000 residents from 2015 to 2020 shows an increase from 7.2 crimes in September 2015 to 16.4 in September 2020.
Sergeant Nisha King of the Provo Police Department attributes much of the rise in crime to Provo’s trusting culture. Many Utah County residents leave doors and cars unlocked and belongings unattended, leading to what King calls “crimes of opportunity,” or chances for easy theft and burglary.
“I don’t want to say we have a dangerous community, but we do have a trusting community, and people need to behave more cautiously,” Sergeant King said. “Students, please secure your homes. It’s good to be trusting, but let’s not let criminals take advantage of homes left unlocked, keys left in cars, and bikes left unchained.”
Theft reports have climbed, with some variation, from 30 incidents in September 2015 to 75 in September 2020. Provo police recently made an arrest in connection with a number of walk-in burglaries in a Provo neighborhood where people left their doors unlocked. Bicycles are often stolen from bike racks and parking garages after being left unchained. Other highlighted cases include theft of laptops, golf clubs, snowboards and skis.
“You’ve got to take precautions,” Sergeant King said. “Leaving property behind, unless you have someone watching it, is not advised.”
The Provo Police Department has instigated a “9 p.m. Routine” on social media reminding residents to (1) remove valuables from their cars, (2) lock their car doors, (3) lock their garage door, (4) turn on outside lights, (5) and lock house doors and windows.
Recent cases of sexual assault also highlight the reality of Provo criminality. A high school girl assaulted on a date with a college student, a woman taken advantage of at a friend’s apartment, and a woman attacked while walking alone at night are a few eye-opening examples of how unexpected and shocking these incidents can be.
“If you walk anywhere at night, walk in well-lit, heavily traveled areas or walk with a buddy,” BYU Police Lt. Rich Christianson said. Christianson urged students to use the BYU SafeWalk app when out alone and to call the police if they see anything suspicious.
While Provo crime is climbing, BYU crimes have been on the decline. Other than “a rogue criminal or two,” Christianson said numbers are low this year, especially since there are fewer students on campus due to COVID-19.
Still, Christianson encourages wariness among students. Beyond locking dorm rooms and not leaving personal items unattended, Lieutenant Christianson asked students to “be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
“If you see something out of place, say something,” Christianson said. “We need all of the eyes and ears we can assemble to help us reduce crime.”
While victim-blaming is discouraged, there are many ways students and area residents can increase precautions and help keep themselves and others from being harmed.
“Students need to understand that Provo City has a crime problem, just like anywhere in the country,” Christianson said. “You are in charge of your personal safety. Stay vigilant and stay safe.”