ST. GEORGE — A series of recent automobile thefts reported in Washington City has prompted authorities to remind residents to keep their vehicles locked and to take the keys with them.
Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said officers appear to be responding to a higher number of theft reports involving vehicles as of late, adding that at the end of April, officers responded to two reports involving a stolen car in a single night.
The uptick in vehicle thefts has also kept officers in Washington City busy, including a report of an abandoned Kawasaki 110 dirt bike discovered in an empty farm field in the Washington Fields area Wednesday morning.
A records check revealed the bike recovered from the field was reported as stolen the previous day, Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams told St. George News.
A similar incident took place on Saturday when a patrol officer stopped a green Ford Crown Victoria near West Red Hills Parkway after he noticed that the car had a broken windshield and was missing the rear license plate.
The driver, identified as Kevin Miller, 24, told the officer he had no driver’s license or registration for the vehicle during the stop, explaining that he purchased the vehicle in Las Vegas for $500, but said he did not have a bill of sale or title on the vehicle, according to charging documents filed with the court.
With the driver unable to provide documentation on the vehicle, the officer ran the Ford’s vehicle identification number through dispatch, which revealed the car was reported stolen out of California. Williams said the suspect listed a home address in San Jacinto, California, a community of 44,000 located in Riverside County.
The suspect was told to exit the car. During his arrest, the officer noted, Miller stated for a second time that “he purchased the vehicle from an unknown person in Las Vegas and could second-degree felony vehicle theft and not provide a bill of sale, title or other documentation.”
When asked if there was anything in the vehicle that officers should be aware of, Miller allegedly admitted that he had a methamphetamine pipe under one of the seats.
The pipe, which contained a white powdery substance, was later located by police. A package in the trunk containing what appeared to be the same substance was also recovered by police.
Miller was transported to jail on a second-degree felony vehicle theft charge as well as misdemeanor drug and paraphernalia charges and remains in custody on $12,680 bail.
With fewer people driving during the pandemic, more cars remain parked in driveways or in the garage, providing more opportunities for them to be stolen.
As for the rise in the number of arrests, reports and stolen vehicles recovered, Williams said, it is interesting to note that in a majority of the reports, the vehicles were left unlocked with the keys still inside, making it easier for thieves to take the car.
“Theft is a crime of opportunity — that’s just how it works,” he said.
He also said while there is never a justification for criminal activity, citizens can play an important role in reducing the risk of becoming a victim by taking a few simple steps to secure their property — the first of which is to lock their vehicles and take the keys with them.
Additionally, thieves look for valuables in their search for vehicles to break into, Williams said, and recommended that all valuables be kept at home or in another secure location that does not involve a vehicle.
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