Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Sept. 22, 2022
(Douglas County, Colo.) Motor vehicle theft and thefts from vehicles are increasing in the Denver Metro region, including in the 18th Judicial District counties.
According to law enforcement, car thefts are often used in other crimes, such as selling drugs, using drugs, carrying weapons as a previous offender and financial crimes.
The 18th DA’s Office investigated over 3,000 motor vehicle theft cases in the past five years, including 377 reported for the first six months of 2022.
During an Aug. 25 livestream to discuss the theft trend, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said his agency expects to have reports of over 500 stolen vehicles total for 2022.
But how many of those reported vehicles turn into sentences for criminals?
Data provided by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office shows fewer probation sentences and more sentences to Colorado Community Corrections Coalition or the Department of Corrections.
During the first six months of 2022, 35.3% of all motor vehicle cases that led to a sentencing resulted in a Department of Corrections sentence The second most common sentence for the same timeframe was probation with no jail, which fell 10% from 2021 to 22.35% of sentences.
In cases where probation was imposed with jail, the average jail sentence also went up. In 2021, the average jail sentence was 72.73 days. So far in 2022, that average is 130.82 days, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Wilcox.
So how many of those cases resulted in a plea to a lesser charge? Wilcox said the matter is complicated due to charges other than motor vehicles theft. He cited the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority, which found 73% of motor vehicle theft cases involve another crime.
“Sometimes that crime is more serious, like aggravated robbery or even murder,” Wilcox said. “Sometimes it’s less serious than motor vehicle theft – maybe simple drug possession.”
Wilcox said the office does not currently have an accurate way to report on pleas to a lesser charge, and the data only reflects all cases where the defendant was charged.
“For example, we’ve seen aggravated motor vehicle theft paired with a wide variety of other crimes like aggravated robbery or identity theft, both of which might be classified as a more serious offense depending on the value of the stolen vehicle,” Wilcox said.