SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC 4 News) – Thieves are looking for more than money in a string of crimes on the Salt Lake Valley’s east bench. That has convenience store owners worried and wondering what to do.
An armed robbery October 26, 2010 at the Circle K convenience store at 3300 South 1100 East was the latest in what appears to be a string of crimes in the area. Two men, one wielding a gun, held the clerk hostage as they took all the cash out of the drawer. It would have been nothing out of the ordinary, except for what happened here exactly one week earlier. That night, someone broke in and stole every cigarette in the store.
A few blocks away, the owner of the Sinclair station and convenience store says he has been hit five times in the past several weeks.
Crime Tracker confirms the complaint. Since August, 2010 it shows 23 thefts, burglaries, breaking and entering cases, and robberies at businesses within one mile of the address.
Unified Police Lieutenant Don Hutson stops short of calling it a rash of crimes but he’s taking the threat seriously.
"It's certainly something that's of concern, not only to us but also everyone in the community that are immediately affected by that."
Sheriff’s detectives are investigating whether any of the crimes are connected to one person or one group of thieves looking for cigarettes.
"They can turn a carton of cigarettes into cash very quickly,” says Hutson. “It's almost better than getting cash."
How then does anyone explain what is not happening at one cigarette retailer in the middle of this recent string of burglaries?
The owner of Smokies says he hasn’t had a single incident here in more than a year. A closer look at Smokies reveals the answer to that question:
A steel-girded doorway shuts out anyone who wants in after hours. Caged windows repel any attempts to smash and grab. Security cameras keep constant watch over every square foot of the store. This place is a fortress.
Lieutenant Hutson says criminals will often pass by stores where lighting, cameras, and barriers protect the property.
“These are all good things to do in order to make yourself less likely to be a victim,” he says. “But there is no one thing to make sure you're never going to be victimized.”
Unified Police say they are studying the trend in the area between the Brickyard and the Mill Creek districts to decide on extra patrols. Business owners say they are hoping for a show of force from police that will force the bandits out of the area.