When it comes to auto theft, Colorado ranks first in the country. The really bad news, the numbers for 2022 put us in a hurry to repeat the infamous title.
This month the Common Sense Institute (CSI) released a new study detailing the latest statistics on auto theft in Colorado. The numbers are more than amazing. It is devastating to many Coloradoans and should serve as a wake-up call to elected officials and voters alike.
Keep in mind that CSI’s 2021 crime report revealed that Colorado’s auto theft rate has increased by 32%, making it the highest in the country. In the first six months of 2022, the theft rate rose another 17.2%. At the current rate of 4,007 per month, car thefts are on track to exceed 48,000 per year, an all-time high for a centenary state.
So far in 2022, four cities in Colorado have ranked among the top ten in the United States for auto theft. Of the list of 185 cities nationwide, Denver ranked second, Aurora ranked third, Westminster ranked eighth, and Pueblo ranked ninth. Together, these four cities account for 53.3% of the number one vehicle stolen statewide. Quarter 2022.
In this category, Colorado stands alone: Four states have more than one city in the top 25 for auto theft, and Colorado has seven.
Worst car theft place in Colorado? Denver International Airport (DIA). More cars are stolen from DIA than anywhere else in Colorado and accounts for nearly 3% of all cars stolen statewide.
If these statistics aren’t enough to convince you of the enormity of the problem, consider the financial impact. The estimated total value of stolen vehicles for 2022 is $848 million and is fast approaching the $1 billion mark. When you factor in the additional costs in terms of lost time, inconvenience, and insurance, the cost of this crime is even higher.
There are leaders in this state who don’t think car theft is a big problem. They are wrong. When someone steals your car, they steal your livelihood.
According to CSI, 85% of Target cars cost $25,000 or less and 63.5% are less than $15,000. These are not cars driven by the governor or our members of Congress. These are the cars he drives every day, hardworking Coloradans.
If you live in a rural area, you may not have access to a bus or other transportation options. A stolen car means you lose your job, you can’t take your kids to the doctor, and you can’t get to the grocery store. It is a devastating reality for those who cannot bear it.
Also infuriating is a very common reaction from some of our elected officials, “The insurance will cover that.” Even our attorney general suggested that drivers get private insurance to cover catalytic converter theft. It is simply outrageous. More theft means higher insurance rates and that costs people money.
This is, of course, if insurance is available. An insurer announced this summer that it would no longer offer coverage of new Denver-area insurance policies on certain models due to the “alarming rate at which these vehicles are being stolen in the Denver area.”
Colorado, which has the highest rate of auto theft in the country, is considered a “hot spot” by insurance companies. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s 2020 Hotspot Report, the Denver Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes Denver, Aurora, and Lakewood, ranked third, and Pueblo MSA ranked seventh. Accordingly, insurance companies will adjust premiums upwards for all consumers in these areas, regardless of whether a car was stolen or not.
Did not matter
Turning a blind eye to the problem or treating it as less than a big deal should not be an option for our elected officials. Car theft is a big problem. It is at the heart of the tsunami crime sweeping our country. The number of secondary car theft-related offenses has increased more than sixfold since 2008. Drug offenses involving auto theft increased 1,110%, violent offenses involving auto theft by 521%, and property offenses involving auto theft by 583% .
The impact of auto theft can be financially disastrous for victims, and the cost of auto insurance is rising for everyone, a crime that gives rise to devastating secondary crimes for victims.
The single most devastating discovery in the CSI study is that criminals are winners. Car thieves outperform law enforcement. The staggering increase in the car thieves’ arrest rate (13.4%) was outpaced by an increase in theft rate (17.2%).
The deafening silence on this issue at the state level is astonishing and should unleash the wrath of every Kolaradan.
So far, state lawmakers don’t have an answer. They’ve spent every year since 2014 making excuses to criminals and throwing out reasons why criminals never have to spend a day in prison at the front end of a prosecution or the backend of a conviction.
In 2014, Colorado’s criminal laws were changed to reduce penalties for car theft. Coincidentally, the rise in car thefts began to escalate around the same year. Since then, state lawmakers have passed bill after bill — such as personal recognition or PR bonds — making Colorado an increasingly permissive environment for car thieves. In 2021, the same year Colorado took first place, a misdemeanour repair bill also known as SB 271 made a car theft crime worth $2,000 or less. Car theft of $1,000 or more was a felony. The bill was approved by state lawmakers, backed by the attorney general and signed by the governor.
In their 2020 report on auto theft, the Colorado Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, a division of the Colorado Department of Safety, stated that “…auto suspects operate with virtual impunity.” Based on the findings in this report, it appears that Colorado has failed to implement effective policies to change this reality.
Our criminal justice system is not working. Policies implemented by legislators are failing.
According to Commander Mike Greenwell of the Colorado Automobile Theft Prevention Authority’s Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force (C-MATT), “97% of people arrested in the past three years for car theft have multiple car theft arrests.”
Colorado has created a revolving door for criminals. Almost as quickly as they are arrested, they are sent back to the street under a PR pledge to commit another crime. There is no shortage of anecdotal stories from law enforcement personnel. For example, a DNA expert told a story about a single criminal who was linked to 30 different auto thefts. Yes 30, 3-0. Every time he is arrested, he is released back into the street. And guess what, he stole another car.
Despite the failure of state legislators, cities are advancing. For example, the city of Aurora recently passed a law requiring mandatory penalties for car theft.
Good for them, but the combination of laws and penalties around car theft in cities across this state is not the way to reverse the crime rate across Colorado. Instead, we should approach this issue at the state level.
We are at a critical stage.
Theft rates continue to rise, and Colorado maintains its unenviable distinction as America’s No. 1 state for auto theft. It is time for a change. Currently.
Read the full report and recommendations for change at www.commonsenseinstituteco.org.
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