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New auto theft laws take effect in Colorado

All car thefts are now felonies, regardless of vehicle's value
People convicted of stealing cars in Colorado could face stiffer penalties if new recommendations from a sentencing task force are adopted.
Posted at 3:20 PM, Jul 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-01 19:24:15-04

DENVER — Several new state laws went into effect Saturday, including measures to punish car thieves with greater penalties.

Proponents hope the new laws will also prevent or reduce car thefts in Colorado.

The new laws will make all auto thefts in Colorado felonies, regardless of a vehicle’s value.

It’s a change many people, including a bipartisan group of lawmakers, said was necessary to combat rising car thefts.

According to state crime statistics, a record 41,073 vehicles were stolen in Colorado last year.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau currently ranks Colorado first for vehicles stolen per capita.

When Terisa Jones walked out the door Saturday morning in Thornton to go to work, she got quite a surprise.

“I usually leave for work around 5: 20 a.m.,” said Jones. “I went outside, and my car was not where I had parked it last night. And I couldn't find it anywhere. I walked our entire complex.”

At first, Jones thought maybe someone had taken her red 2020 Kia Rio for a joyride.

Then she thought of other reasons her car would be gone.

“I felt the panic,” said Jones. “I was hoping that maybe my apartment complex had towed it, but they stopped towing vehicles a couple of months ago.”

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Terisa Jones discovered her red Kia Rio had been stolen early Saturday, the same day new laws went into effect aimed at preventing auto theft.

Jones soon realized someone had stolen her car.

Jones's discovery came on the same day new state laws aimed at preventing car theft took effect.

The new laws make all car thefts in Colorado felonies, regardless of a vehicle’s value.

In addition, there’s a new misdemeanor charge for joyriding or unauthorized use of a vehicle.

The car must not be used in a crime. It must not be damaged. And it must be returned to the owner within 24 hours after it’s reported stolen.

Someone can only be charged with joyriding once.

Subsequent offenses become felonies.

Denver Police are cracking down on auto thefts.

“Last year, Denver was the single worst metro area in terms of auto theft,” said Commander Jacob Herrera with the Denver Police Department. “Last year, we had 39 cars stolen per day. And that's unacceptable.”

The department says a new pilot program to investigate auto thefts resulted in 104 arrests and 80 recovered stolen vehicles from March to June.

“The idea is to create a team that has more resources to investigate auto thefts, that leads to more arrests, but also better arrests with more evidence and hopefully stronger cases for the [district attorneys],” said Herrera.

New auto theft laws take effect in Colorado

Denver Police also encourages car owners to sign up for the DenverTrack program, which preauthorizes the police to track stolen cars in real-time using a vehicle’s GPS.

“We can put them on top of where your car is, in an undercover capacity, safely follow your vehicle, and make the arrest where it doesn't lead to a crash or a police pursuit,” said Herrera. “You get your car back faster, and it's not crashed in a million pieces.”

Colorado State Patrol says auto thefts were down 22% in the first four months of this year compared to last year.

As for Jones, she contacted the police to report her car stolen and is waiting.

“I've never been in this particular situation,” said Jones. “Not being able to go to work and kind of being in a tight spot as far as getting anywhere is a very desperate feeling because rent is extremely expensive. Groceries are expensive right now. I'm just trying not to panic, but this is definitely going to have a major impact on my life moving forward if we don't recover the car.”

Jones says her 2020 KIA Rio has a temporary license plate number of 5059334. She says the temporary tag incorrectly lists the car as white, even though it is red.

It was last seen near 104th Avenue and Fox Run Parkway.

Anyone who spots the vehicle should call their local law enforcement agency.

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