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12-year-old's death highlights auto theft crisis in Colorado

Colorado now No. 1 in auto theft in the nation
Auto theft
Posted at 4:35 PM, Feb 08, 2023

DENVER — Gauge Authier’s 2005 Chevy Tahoe is trashed.

“I don’t know if you can see, the back seat is ripped out. The subs are gone. They cut the ignition wires and stole the battery,” Authier said. “There’s wires hanging out of the steering column, they took my radio.”

Thieves stole the SUV from the Regional Transportation District (RTD) parking lot at 40th Ave. and Airport Boulevard. Three weeks later, it was recovered by Denver police.

“We’re standing in the lot now that it was stolen from on a Saturday,” Authier said. “I was taking the train to go to the Stock Show with some family to have a good day. We came back that same day, later around 8 o’clock, and my car was gone. I called police and mentioned the cameras, but they said the cameras here don’t really work, so they can’t really check those.”

Denver7 has reported extensively on recent theft and other crimes in RTD lots, as well as widespread issues with inoperable surveillance cameras.

The Denver Police Department reports auto theft is up 78% from the three-year average.

MORE: Auto thefts continue to explode in Colorado

And it’s not just auto theft that’s rampant. Thieves are also stealing things out of cars and from under them.

“They get in with Sawzall and cut downstream and up of the catalytic converter, grab it and they can be out in 30-45 seconds,” said Shiju Thomas, owner of Hotchkiss Auto Repair.

It’s also becoming a deadly issue.

A 12-year-old theft suspect died after a shootout at 12th Ave. and Decatur in Denver Sunday. Denver PD says the vehicle owner used a tracking device to follow his stolen car,

When the owner approached the car, he was "involved in an exchange of gunfire" with those inside the vehicle, according to Denver police. It’s not known if the driver, 12-year-old Elias Armstrong, had a weapon or if it another occupant in the stolen vehicle who engaged in the shootout.

The Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force (CMATT) tells Denver7 it "has noticed an increase in people arrested out of stolen vehicles who are not just minors, but younger than the driving age.” Authorities say theft rings are recruiting younger people because, if caught, they know the prosecution in those cases will include lesser penalties.

MORE: Bill would increase penalties for car thefts in Colorado in an attempt to deter criminals

Cale Gould with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority says if you have a garage, use it.

“I make space for my car every time,” Gould said. “Because it’s so much safer in my garage than on the street.”

Authier says he’ll likely shy away from using RTD lots after what happened.

“It definitely frustrates me because my car was behind a camera right over there,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right that none of (the cameras) work, right? They’re here for a reason. In my case, thieves totally destroyed everything.”

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