Police indicate that leaving a purse on a seat of a vehicle virtually offers an invitation to criminals.
Automobile burglaries have risen nearly 300 percent in recent months as Price city police officers work to combat a rash of crimes that has stricken the local area.
"We need residents to start locking their vehicles because this problem is not going to just go away," stressed Price Police Chief Aleck Shilaos. "The assailants seem to be targeting purses and we have yet to have a case where the vehicle was locked when the crime occurred. About two months ago we saw a huge jump in purse snatching and we don't necessarily know what is fueling it."
The crimes are not only increasing in Carbon County. According to the Price City Police Department, theft and burglary reports have climbed significantly across the state.
Price police arrested David Depue and booked the suspect into the county jail Nov. 16 on vehicle burglary and criminal mischief charges.
However, local law enforcement officials have indicated that there are most likely several perpetrators involved in the related crimes, citing that there were local vehicle burglaries while the suspect was incarcerated.
Price Det. Susan Hyde confirmed that Depue was arrested on three counts of vehicle burglary.
If the suspect is charged separately in connection with the incidents by the city or county attorney's office, the defendant will most likely face misdemeanor category charges.
However, if the crimes are combined into one case, the total dollar amount involved in the incidents will likely increase the charges to felony level counts, pointed out Hyde.
Burglary of a vehicle is initially defined by the Utah criminal codes as unlawfully entering an automobile or truck with intent to the commit a felony or theft offense.
While the local police officers continue to work toward apprehending the suspects in the crimes, the authorities urge local residents to exercise as much caution as possible.
"Please do everything possible to safeguard your property," said Hyde.
The Price police detective recommended that residents:
â¢Keep vehicles locked at all times.
"Even if you are only running into the store for a second," said Hyde.
â¢Take purses and wallets into stores when leaving a vehicle.
â¢Never think that putting a purse under the seat is safe.
If an individual is forced to carry something of value in his or her car, the person should keep the item in the trunk at all times.
If at all possible, Carbon County residents should leave all valuable property at home, advised Hyde.
â¢Try to park in a well lit, populated area.
"Additionally, please inform the police immediately if you see someone trying car doors," emphasized the Price detective. "We were tipped off by one resident but the area was right next to a school and by the time we got there school had been let out and there were 50 people who fit the description of the individual described in the call."
The suspects have been smart in the manner in which they have committed the crimes so far, Hyde.
The Price police detective indicated that, after most of the burglaries, the purses have been recovered with everything left inside except for the individual's cash.
"They are not attempting to use someone's identification for identity theft purposes or buy things with credit card, they only seem to be after the cash," explained Hyde.
While some of the crimes have random aspects and there may be several assailants, there are some reported similarities in the crimes.
"One of the suspects reported that they were reportedly targeting more valuable vehicles," explained the Price city detective. "He had hit a laundromat and had gotten into a General Motors Yukon Denali, Ford Explorer and Cadillac Escalade."
According to Hyde, there have also been similar crimes committed at Big Moe's, Wal-Mart and Maverik.
"They seem to be targeting the downtown area" said the police detective "And they are brazen. A lot of these crimes have been committed in broad daylight with people around."
For those individuals whose purses cannot be recovered the effects can be devastating far beyond the loss of money.
"One individual who had their purse taken lost all of her identification, 20 credit cards, her and her husband's checkbook. She said it was like her and her husband didn't exist for two weeks while they reported everything stolen and went about the hassle of obtaining new forms and cards," explained Hyde. "She told me that she had sat down and figured the expense of going to all the agencies and all the trips she had to make and it cost her more than a $1,000 to get her life back."
Local law enforcement officials have made two additional arrests involving purses that were reportedly left in shopping baskets due to the aid of surveillance cameras in the area.
According to the department, police are currently following up on several leads and, with due diligence from local residents, hope to get a better handle on the situation soon.