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Slow speed chase highlights car theft increase in Utah

Posted at 7:02 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 15:31:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A man is in custody after a slow chase through several communities early Thursday morning.

UDOT traffic cameras captured part of the chase.

Unified Police Department officers say it began about 3 a.m. in Midvale when they spotted the vehicle that was reported stolen.

But when they attempted to stop the car, the driver took off going through Murray, where the tires were first spiked, then over to Taylorsville, where the tires were spiked again.

The suspect, 43-year-old Luis Rodriguez, finally stopped and surrendered at 3900 South Redwood Road.

Officers say they see stolen vehicles all the time.

According to Salt Lake City Police crime statistics, auto thefts are up 66 percent so far this year, and the Salt Lake Police Association says a key factor is the lack of severe punishment.

READ: Lock your cars! Vehicle theft spikes in COVID-19 pandemic

Car thefts are usually not well thought out crimes.

“No, these aren’t masterminds of planning out a car theft, a lot of it is crimes of opportunity," said Lt. Michael Ruff with the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Police data shows 237 cars were stolen with the keys inside, sometimes running, and it doesn’t matter that the weather is getting warmer.

“During the winter it’s to warm your car up, or you’ll just leave your keys in there with these new keys that don’t go in the ignition, we still see that all summer long as well,” Ruff said. “Now you see a window left down though as well, it’s hot outside, somebody starts rolling down their windows or they leave their car running to keep it cool and somebody takes off in that car. So locking your car, making sure your keys aren’t in your car, those are the two best ways to keep someone from taking your car.”

Vehicle owners can take some simple steps to protect themselves from being victims.

“Our car thieves, they walk through neighborhoods looking for people who have left their cars running. A lot of times they've broken into a car to try to steal something that somebody has left inside and they end up finding that the keys are there, they push the button if it's a push button and the car takes off," Ruff said. "Or they're hanging outside the convenient store and someone runs in to grab a drink and their car disappears.”

Ruff advises drivers to take a few extra seconds to make sure you don’t leave any valuables, especially your keys or key fobs in your vehicle, and don't leave it running unless you're inside.