DougCo Sheriff testifies to senate committee on vehicle theft bill

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Feb. 28, 2023

(Douglas County, Colo.) Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly was among the many who testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the proposed motor vehicle theft bill.

Weekly has been outspoken in his support of Senate Bill 97 and appeared in person to represent the Colorado Sheriff’s Association, which also supports the bill.

The bill proposes changing how prosecutors assess charges. Currently, charges are based on the stolen vehicle’s price — ranging from a Class 1 misdemeanor for a car worth under $2,000 to a Class 3 felony for cars worth over $100,000. Victim advocates testified to the committee that often, individuals with less expensive cars have fewer resources (such as a second car) to address the theft while law enforcement investigates.

If passed, the bill would make auto theft at least a Class 5 felony, with aggravating factors that would raise the felony level.

Aggravating factors range from altering the vehicle’s license plates or damaging the vehicle to using it in the commission of another crime or injuring another. Additionally, if the thief has two prior convictions, the charge could become a Class 3 felony.

Weekly said in Douglas County, including the municipalities of Castle Rock, Parker and Lone Tree, there were 627 vehicles stolen in 2022. He cited the CATPA-Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force 2022 report which detailed 41,359 vehicles stolen statewide in 2022 — of these, 30,506 were recorded as stolen in the Denver Metro Area, for a regional economic impact of over $279 million.

“Colorado must stop coddling hardcore criminals and repeat offenders,” Weekly said. “This bipartisan bill is definitely a step in the right direction.”

He noted stolen vehicles are increasingly used to commit other crimes, such as catalytic converter thefts, shootings, robberies, drug crimes and more.

“These stricter motor vehicle penalties will no doubt reduce vehicle thefts and also reduce other types of crime to create a safer Colorado,” Weekly said.

The bill will be heard next by the Senate Appropriations Committee. No hearing date has been set.

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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