Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Jan. 31, 2023
(Douglas County, Colo.) Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly fully endorsed proposed Colorado legislation that would impose more aggressive penalties on auto thieves.
Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, and Sen. Bob Gardner introduced the legislation during a Jan. 30 news conference. In its current form, the bill would make all vehicle thefts a class five felony and end “value-based” charging, which allows for higher penalties in cases with more expensive vehicles.
"Auto theft is a serious problem that affects us all,” said Weekly. "It is the nexus to many other crimes such as burglary, robbery, vehicle break-ins, drug possession, and many others.”
He called the legislation a “great step” toward ensuring Colorado communities are kept safe, and criminals are held accountable.
Douglas County recorded 627 vehicle thefts last year, compared with 623 in 2021, according to the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority’s Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force (C-MATT) 2022 annual report. Overall, the metro area’s auto thefts continued to rise, but at a slower rate than previously reported, the task force found.
Colorado remains the nationwide leader in auto thefts, with these reports increasing 86% from 2019 to 2021.
Most of the state’s thefts occur in the six-county Denver metro area (Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties) patrolled by C-MATT.
The auto theft task force found that between 2021 and 2022, motor vehicle thefts increased by 12% statewide (including the Denver metro). From 2019 to 2022, when removing the metro area from the rest of the state, motor vehicle thefts only increased by 55%, but increased by 150% in the metro region. The six-county region accounts for 74% of the state's auto theft, but only 51% of the state’s population.
However, Colorado car thefts dropped off throughout the year: approximately 14% fewer vehicles were stolen in the last half of 2022 than in the first half of 2022, C-MATT reported.
There were 627 stolen vehicle reports in Douglas County, C-MATT’s report stated, and 67% were recovered within the first 30 days. The report stated 676 total vehicles were recovered in Douglas County throughout 2022 (19% more vehicles than were recovered in 2021).
The task force also reported 74 of Douglas County’s car thefts occurred in Castle Rock.
According to the C-MATT report, several southern Denver municipalities observed decreases in how many vehicles were stolen, led by Castle Rock, with a 15% decrease, and including Wheat Ridge, down 7%; unincorporated areas of Arapahoe County, down 4%; Englewood, also down 4%; and Lone Tree, down 3%.
However, Aurora had a total of 5,787 auto thefts, an increase of 20%.
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