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Thefts break Provo calm

Residents rattled by auto burglaries and vandalism

PROVO — The early morning hours are mostly quiet in Provo — except for the occasional sound of breaking glass or the hiss of a knife slashing through rubber.

Auto burglaries and vandalism have long plagued Happy Valley, as they do nearly every other metropolitan area.

But a string of recent crimes has reminded some folks that thieves and vandals strike even in one of America's safest cities.

Last Thursday at about 3 a.m., a man walked through a popular student housing complex near Brigham Young University and slashed more than 40 tires, causing an estimated $4,000 in damages.

Earlier that week, seven cars were burglarized in Provo. Since 1997, Provo has averaged about 78 auto burglaries a month, adding up to approximately 944 a year.

By contrast, Fort Collins, Colo., a city of similar size and demographics, had 1,173 auto burglaries in 2000. Orem averages about 820 reported cases a year.

"It's consistently a problem. We're right on track to have high numbers this year, as we always have," said Karen Mayne, a Provo police spokeswoman.

Mayne said that after traffic violations, auto burglaries are the most common crime in Provo.

At the house where BYU student Jenn Buttars lives, three cars had their tires slashed last week. She said the incident shook the sense of security she felt living in Provo.

"It was surprising to me because nothing like that happens around here," Buttars said. "We've started locking our door."

Sometimes locking the door is not enough. During a two-week period in February, 31 of 43 burglarized cars were locked. Mayne says thieves entered most of those cars by breaking a window.

Last week, thieves smashed through the front passenger window of a vehicle parked in the 100 East block of 900 South and pried open the dash to steal a stereo.

Orem Police Lt. Doug Edwards said motorists should lock their doors, hide their valuables and park their cars in visible, well-lighted spots to avoid burglaries.

Edwards said one Orem woman had a cheap, empty purse stolen this week, simply because she left it on the seat.

"If she hadn't left it there, she wouldn't be paying for a new window," he said.

David George, a college student who lives down the street from Buttars, says these types of stories are common in his neighborhood. He says he recently lost a $2,000 stereo to thieves, and three of his roommates' cars were also burglarized.

"I worry about car theft a lot more than someone breaking into my house," he said. "We don't even lock our door most of the time."

Mayne said some Provo citizens take the safety of their city for granted and are not careful enough. They leave car doors unlocked, CD cases on the front seat and purses in view.

"When you have a city of our size with zero to three homicides a year, people generally feel pretty safe," Mayne said. "This is a safe city, but every now and then we feel the public needs a bit of a reminder to not keep their valuables in plain sight."