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March 4, 2013 — A new “Chief’s Message” video posted online today focuses on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s new and improved Auto Theft Unit, the number of auto thefts in the city, and ways the public can secure their vehicles.

“It [auto theft] is a huge problem here in Salt Lake,” according to Sgt. Stefhan Bennett, who talked about the situation with Chief Chris Burbank. “Last year, we had roughly 3,000 vehicles [reported] stolen; we recovered approximately 2,400 of those.”

Of the vehicles not recovered, Bennett said he is confident many end up south of the border or stripped for parts. “They [car thieves] can double or triple the value of a stolen car just by selling the parts off. So they’re ending up in chop shops,” he explained, adding that “other vehicles are being loaded up on transports [and] taken out of state, or even out of the country, for resale.”

Bennett and the four detectives under his command are taking a two-pronged approach of enforcement action and public education to deal with auto theft, including:

  • Strengthening local partnerships with outside agencies, including Adult Probation & Parole and Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement, to better identify career criminals and repeat offenders;
  • Promoting the public’s use of Watch Your Car, a national anti-vehicle theft program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. It provides decals that signify a vehicle typically is not driven from 1–5 a.m. Officers are able to pull these vehicles over, without cause, to verify the owner or designee is behind the wheel during those hours.
  • Conducting outreach — including the launch of — to build public awareness of ways to reduce individual and community risk of auto theft.

Burbank and Bennett walked through some easy steps the public can take right away to help. For example, the public should report suspicious behavior, including strangers looking into vehicles or the presence of unknown cars repeatedly driving down the street; and car owners may want to consider using steering locks, a visible auto theft deterrent.

And, of course, don’t be a job creator for car thieves. Said Bennett: “Someone sees your car warming up —  no one’s watching the car, no one is in the car — that’s a free ride to work.”

About the “Chief’s Message”
Chief Burbank issues a monthly video message to help the public reduce its exposure to, or mitigate the effects of, crime. All “Chief’s Messages” are archived on the newsroom page of and the “Chief’s Message” playlist of

Contact: Reporters seeking comment should contact the Public Information Officer at 801.799.NEWS (6397).