Auto theft victim frustrated by inability to get car back

Spotted stolen car 4 times, called police
Posted at 10:48 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 00:48:06-04

DENVER -- Mitch Uhland had no idea his life was about to change, when he went outside on February 12, to warm up his car.

"It was parked right here," Uhland said, pointing to handicapped spot in front of his apartment at the Breakers. "Forty seconds later, it was gone."

Uhland learned firsthand why police warn against "puffing," the act of leaving your car running unattended.

He said he went back into the house to get his dog and when he came back out, his car, a 2009 Chevy Cobalt, was no where to be seen.

"I didn't even hear the car take off," he said. 

Stolen car spotted multiple times

Uhland told Denver7 that it was bad enough having his car stolen just a few feet away from his front door, but what is even worse is that he's seen the suspected thief driving it four times and is powerless to do anything about it.

"It's kind of upsetting," he said. "I saw the car in the Walmart parking lot (at South Parker Road and Florida) and called police."

The 911 call apparently went to Arapahoe County dispatch. 

"I was on the phone with police and I was like, 'I'm going to go over there and they're like, no, no, no, don't. Stay there.'"

He said the last time he saw the vehicle, the suspect was driving "100 miles an hour" down Valentia Street.

"The officer told me he got away."

Uhland said his girlfriend saw the suspect entering the Breakers complex once and saw him leaving once.

He said she called police both times.

Denver Police say their records show only two calls were made from Uhland's phone. One when the car was reported stolen and one when it was spotted several weeks later.

Department spokesman Doug Schepman said there are three jurisdictions in that general area: Denver, Aurora and unincorporated Arapahoe County, so the various 911 calls apparently went to different jurisdictions.

"We absolutely understand this gentleman's frustrations," Schepman said. 

Schepman added that it's easier to recover a stolen car if it's parked and more difficult if it's actually being driven.

"We stress how important it is, to make it as hard as possible, if not impossible for someone to steal your car," he said. "Don't leave your car running."

Schepman said DPD is part of the Metro Area Auto Theft Task Force.

"Officers get lists of vehicles reported stolen and we use license plate reader technology to help recover stolen cars," he said. 

Some cars are recovered quickly, while others take much more time.

"Each case is different," he said.

Suspect description

When asked to describe the individual he saw driving his car, Uhland said he was a tall, gangly white man.

"He looks my age," he said, "In his 20s or maybe 30s."

Because the Breakers is a gated community, Uhland said he can't help but wonder if the thief lives there too, and whether he's keeping an eye on him.

"I feel caged," he said. "I feel like I'm being poked with a stick and it's really frustrating."

Schepman said Uhland's car, a silver Cobalt, is listed in the stolen auto database, but added he can't predict when it might be recovered.

"We want the public to be the eyes and ears," he said. "If you see a vehicle that seems out of place in the neighborhood, or one that appears to have been broken into, call police."

Auto theft statistics

Statistics from the Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center show that 14,859 motor vehicles were stolen in 2015. That was a 29 percent jump from the previous year.

Denver Police released these statistics late Wednesday showing how many cars were stolen last  year and how many have been recovered:


Sign up for Denver7 email alerts to stay informed about breaking news and daily headlines.

Or, keep up-to-date by following Denver7 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.