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Summit County Sheriff implores residents to lock up cars and homes

Summit County

There have been nine vehicle burglaries in Summit County since March 18th. Investigations are ongoing, but the sheriff’s office believes some burglaries are related to a person taken into custody early on Friday morning.

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said it’s common for vehicle burglaries to occur when criminals are given an easy opportunity to commit crimes. He said the spate of thefts is related to complacency by residents and easy access from Salt Lake City.

"We have, I think, created a situation here in Summit County where people feel safe. They feel safe in their homes. They leave their doors open, they leave their cars open, they leave the garage doors open, and it becomes a crime of opportunity. Individuals come up from the valley. It's really easy to drive up Parleys and exit you know, the Jeremy Ranch exit, and jump into Pinebrook or Jeremy Ranch area and find those kinds of opportunities. So, take all valuables out of their car, don't become a victim, lock your doors. We want to feel like we don't need to lock our doors, but we have to.”

KPCW reported Friday that Anthony Ortega was arrested after being chased by sheriff’s deputies for stealing a package from the front porch of a Summit Park resident.

With the k9 team’s assistance, the suspect was found hiding in a utility closet, having entered through an unlocked door of a private home on Homestead Drive in Jeremy Ranch. Martinez said Ortega checked multiple entries in the area before finding one unlocked.

He said the same thing happens with people who come up from Salt Lake City to commit crimes. Martinez said residents must not make it easy for them to succeed.

“They’re working typically in groups of two, three, or four, and they're driving around the neighborhoods with their lights off and if they see a garage door open, they’ll run inside, see what they can grab very quickly and out. Same thing with cars. They'll get into a parking lot, and they'll just check car after car after car and find that one that's open, that's unlocked, with an iPad or computer or wallet sitting right there.”

Summit County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Andrew Wright said deputies can be more effective if people report thefts or suspicious activity immediately. He said the longer a crime victim waits, the harder it is to catch the criminals.

“You have to call us immediately. You're not going to bug us. You're not going to annoy us. That's what our job is.”

Wright said Ortega and another suspect are in jail. Investigators don’t know if the two are connected.

“Our investigators are working, of course following a bunch of different evidence, to try to determine how many of these that Mr. Ortega is responsible for. However, we do know that there's more than Mr. Ortega that's been up here committing the crimes because on Saturday after he was already in custody, there was a report of a vehicle parked over at the nail salon at Kimball junction, that in broad daylight someone went and smashed out the passenger side window, stole a purse, some other bags.”

Of the nine reported burglary-related crimes reported over the weekend, some were garage thefts, some from vehicles, and others were packages stolen from front porches. Based on the sheriff’s report, all but one of the thefts occurred in an unlocked vehicle and from garage doors that were left open.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.