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Aurora councilman seeks harsher punishments for car thefts

Thieves could face mandatory jail sentence
Car theft ordinance Aurora.jpg
Posted at 9:30 PM, Jun 16, 2022

AURORA, Colo. — An Aurora city leader is proposing a minimum jail sentence of 60 days for first-time car thieves and harsher penalties for repeat offenders.

Councilman Dustin Zvonek introduced an ordinance Thursday to create mandatory jail time for stealing a car in Aurora. Repeat offenders would face a minimum jail sentence of 120 days. Those who fail to show up to court would also spend time in jail.

“I want to send a very clear signal to car thieves that Aurora is not the city to steal cars in,” Zvonek said. “My goal is to make Aurora the most punitive city when it comes to car theft.”

Colorado is number one in the nation for car thefts per capita, and Zvonek noted that Aurora’s car thefts have risen 239% between 2019-2021. He says he felt forced to take action after the state lawmakers decriminalized crimes such as motor vehicle theft.

“We have to do something,” Zvonek said. “Our residents are demanding us to do things to make us safe.”

Both Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown and Adams County Sheriff Richard Reigenborn expressed support for the ordinance. The convicted car thieves would be spending their sentences at the county jails overseen by these sheriffs.

“We do have to hold people accountable,” Brown said. “This is something that’s impacting our community.”

Aurora Interim Police Chief Dan Oates also expressed support for the ordinance.

Not everyone on Aurora’s council agreed with Zvonek’s approach, however. Councilman Juan Marcano questioned the effectiveness of mandatory minimum jail sentences during Thursday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, where the ordinance was introduced.

“Every single thing that I have read about mandatory minimums show that they do not work,” Marcano said. “They end up spending tremendous amounts of public resources to incarcerate and prosecute these folks, and you still have crime.”

The ordinance will go before the full council at the end of the month.

“I understand there’s going to be a cost to the city,” Zvonek said. “We’re going to have more cases, we’re going to be putting more people in jail, but we have to not forget the cost to the victims.”