NewsLocal News


Colorado now No. 1 in auto theft, Denver second among cities as car crimes soar

Critics blame weakening of laws, lack of prosecution for skyrocketing crimes
Colorado now No. 1 in auto theft, Denver second among cities as car crimes soar
Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-14 20:21:15-04

DENVER — According to new FBI statistics, Colorado now leads the nation in auto theft per capita. And in terms of cities, Denver is second only to Bakersfield, California.

At Hotchkiss Auto Repair on East Colfax in Denver, car crime is a common theme.

“We’re seeing a lot of catalytic converter theft,” said owner Shiju Thomas. “They can get in with a Sawzall and just cut downstream and upstream of the cat, grab it, and they can be out within 30 to 45 seconds. Even if someone is caught on video, there’s only so much a police officer can do.”

New numbers from the Denver Police Department show auto theft has increased 78% in Denver in 2022 over the 3-year average, with neighborhoods in east and northeast Denver seeing some of the worst of it. East Colfax is up 78%, Park Hill is up 86%, Lowry up 120% and Central Park is up 158%.

“You’ve got to start with the basic steps. Start by locking your car and taking your keys with you every time,” said Cale Gould, public outreach program assistant with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

Gould says if you have a garage — use it.

“You’re leaving three cars out on the street and there’s nothing in your garage except junk,” Gould said. “I make space for my car every time because it’s a lot safer in my garage than out on the street.”

Critics blame weaker laws in Colorado, including lowering some car theft from a felony to a misdemeanor. Those critics also say there's a lack of prosecution of auto thieves.

But Denver District Attorney Beth McCann fires back at those critics. She points to two recent busts of major auto theft rings — each with nearly a dozen people indicted.

“Every case that the Denver Police Department brings to us, we file,” McCann said. “We are prosecuting them. We are holding people accountable.”

And she has a message to people who live in Denver.

“For those moms and dads, I would say they should not feel unsafe,” McCann said. “But they should take precautions. They should never leave their car unlocked, they should not leave anything in their cars.”

“We love complex auto theft security systems, steering wheel locks, parking boot locks, and any additional hardening measures to the vehicle that you can do,” Gould said.

“It’s sad,” Thomas said. “That that’s the best way to deal with it, but it’s a $500 to $800 investment to avoid this nonsense. So, I would say it’s worth taking measures to protect yourself.”