AURORA, Colo. — Data released earlier this year show an average of more than 100 cars stolen every day in Colorado.
When looking at Aurora, the numbers are even more shocking. From 2019-2021 car thefts in Colorado rose by 89%, according to the Aurora City Attorney's Office. For that same time period in Aurora, car thefts increased by 239%.
In an effort to combat the problem, Aurora City Councilmember Dustin Zvonek will be introducing a resolution and ordinance that would create a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days for all car theft. The plan would also impose a 10-day mandatory minimum sentence for defendants who fail to appear in court.
“The plan seeks to make Aurora the most punitive city in the state to steal cars," Zvonek said. “I believe that this requires a statewide solution. But in absence of that statewide solution, as a local leader, I'm going to do everything I can to keep my community safe.”
Zvonek said in the first five months of 2022, Aurora is already up 25% in car thefts over last year.
"You'll have the victim and maybe a witness who show up and the criminal doesn't, and it just gets punted further down the road. And [victims] can't keep taking time out of their out of their day job, away from their kids and their families," Zvonek said. "This is a game that criminals play. So it creates some accountability for them failing to show up when they steal cars.”
Zvonek's proposal operates on a sliding scale, meaning habitual offenders could receive a sentence of up to 120 days in jail. Typically, Zvonek said car theft is met with a punishment of probation in Aurora.
“In Colorado, over the past six, seven years, we've seen a systematic effort to decriminalize everything to the point to where we're decriminalizing crime," Zvonek said. “I'm not saying we have to throw everybody in jail and lock them up, but we have to have more severe penalties.”
Aurora has a detention facility that can hold people for up to 72 hours, but the following 57 days of the sentence would be spent in either the Adams or Arapahoe counties' jails.
“I've had the opportunity to talk to the county sheriffs about this plan," Zvonek said. "Both of them have expressed support, in part because they know that this isn't just a property crime. People are stealing cars not to joy ride, but to commit other crimes."
Zvonek said the interim police chief of the Aurora Police Department, Dan Oates, is working on a motor vehicle theft task force to address the crime. Zvonek hopes his proposal, along with the new unit, can work together to decrease car theft in the city.
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The plan would not apply to juveniles since the state has their own system for people under 18.
The official introduction of the resolution and ordinance will be next week, and it needs two readings before it could be passed by city council. If it were to move forward, that would happen sometime near the middle or end of July. If passed, it has 30 days to be implemented.