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Law enforcement warns public after vehicle thefts in Lewis and Clark County

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-31 16:50:27-05

HELENA — Law enforcement in Lewis and Clark County is reminding the public to take precautions, as they have recently seen a number of vehicles stolen.

The Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook that law enforcement recovered six stolen vehicles in just three days last week. In many of those cases, the owners had left the keys inside.

“Consequently we would like to remind the public once again to always keep their car doors locked and to take their keys with them,” Sgt. Chris Weiss said in the post.

Weiss also said, when officers try to recover stolen vehicles, they sometimes end up in dangerous situations.

Helena Police Department Lt. Brett Petty said they have received 11 reports of auto thefts within city limits during the month of December – almost all of which came after the vehicles had been left unlocked or the keys were left inside. He said all those vehicles have since been recovered.

LCSO Undersheriff Jason Grimmis said these thefts haven’t been limited to any specific areas of Lewis and Clark County. He said one was taken from around Forestvale Cemetery in the middle of the day. In another case, a vehicle was stolen from Helena, then left in the Wolf Creek area – where authorities believe the suspect then stole another.

Grimmis said auto thefts are a “crime of opportunity.” He said the sheriff’s office tends to see more cases in the winter, when people leave their cars running to warm up. He said some thefts begin with suspects simply wanting to steal something out of a vehicle, but changing their plans when they find the keys inside.

“Take your own precautions; protect your property – and the first thing to do that is by locking your vehicle up,” he said. “It’s the simplest thing. Yeah, there’s times where vehicles get broken into and damaged, but a lot of people aren’t trying to make a mark on a vehicle, they’re just trying to take something out of it.”

Grimmis said law enforcement is still investigating several of the cases.