LAKEWOOD, Colo. — After several years of steep increases, car thefts have declined in Colorado, according to state crime data.
Thousands of Coloradans have been victims of car theft this year, from ordinary citizens to the mayor of Denver.
“Anybody is at risk at any time,” said Cale Gould with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority (CATPA) in Lakewood, which tracks car thefts. "We've been on a gentle incline for at least five years."
That "gentle incline" turned into a steep surge starting in 2020.
"There was a whole bunch of factors that played into that. Everything from the pandemic to civil unrest, economic downturn,” said Gould. “Those are all factors that played into it."
Last year, more than 41,000 cars were stolen in Colorado, according to state crime data. More than 29,000 of those cars were successfully recovered.
Car theft numbers are falling this year. State crime data shows 27,645 cars have been stolen in Colorado this year as of Monday. Of those, 18,000 have been recovered.
“We started tracking this trend late 2022, where we saw these numbers plateauing and then starting to come down,” said Gould.
Interim Aurora Police Chief Art Acevado said car thefts are down in his city. He credits the city council for getting tough on auto thieves.
“Consequences matter,” Acevado posted.
In 2022, Aurora City Council passed a measure requiring first-time auto theft offenders who are convicted in municipal court to serve a mandatory minimum of 60 days in jail. Repeat offenders must serve a minimum of 120 days.
"I can't speak directly for Aurora,” said Gould. “I know there were councils, Aurora notably, who passed their own council measures, and some other councils around the metro area who were looking into similar measures.”
Gould said many factors likely contributed to the decline in auto thefts across the state, including state legislation passed this year which made all car thefts a felony, regardless of a vehicle's age or value.
"That was significant,” said Gould.
The decline in auto thefts can be measured in communities across the state, including Aurora and Denver.
In Aurora, 4,809 cars have been reported stolen so far this year, compared to 6,927 in 2022, according to state crime data. Denver has recorded 10,594 cars stolen so far this year, compared to 15,274 last year.
It's too early to tell if the trend will continue, but Gould urges car owners not to let their guard down. Car thefts are still significantly higher than they were in the years before 2020.
"That's why it's important to learn what factors make your vehicle at higher risk and how to prevent those,” said Gould.
He said simply locking your car and taking the keys can help, as well as keeping valuables out of sight.
"There's no reason to incentivize a thief to steal your car,” said Gould.
He said a small investment in a steering wheel lock or tire boot can also help prevent car thefts. For more ways to prevent car theft, visit lockdownyourcar.org