'Soft on crime' policies in Colorado could mean $848M in stolen vehicles this year, report says

Colorado had the highest auto theft rate in the nation last year at 661 thefts per 100,000 people.

Updated: September 11, 2022 - 6:55am

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The total value of vehicles stolen in Colorado could reach an estimated $848.3 million this year, a new report on auto theft says.

The report, compiled by the Common Sense Institute (CSI), a free-enterprise think tank, found that the state is on pace to surpass a record 48,000 auto thefts this year, with a total value estimated to be between $468.1 million and $848.3 million.

Colorado had the highest auto theft rate in the nation last year at 661 thefts per 100,000 people, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Denver’s rate is the second highest in the country, behind only Bakersfield, Calif., at 964 thefts per 100,000 people.

Auto thefts in the state are also up 17.2% for the first half of the year, CSI’s report noted.

“Based on the increase through the first half of 2022, it appears likely that Colorado will retain the number one spot for car thefts again this year,” the report said.

“We are fast approaching $1 billion in stolen vehicles and Colorado is on track to maintain our number 1 ranking as the worst state in the nation when it comes to auto thefts,” said Mitch Morrissey, one of the report’s authors and a criminal justice fellow for CSI. “Soft on crime public policies are costing Coloradans billions of dollars, their safety and their quality of life.”

Auto thefts in Colorado have increased every year since 2010, according to the report, which noted the increases continued after the Legislature passed a law in 2014 that lowered the penalties for property theft, including auto theft.

Colorado has four of the top-10 cities in the country for auto thefts – Denver (No. 2), Aurora (No. 3), Westminster (No. 8), and Pueblo (No. 9) – according to CSI’s report, which used data from the FBI.

The Aurora City Council in July passed an ordinance increasing auto theft penalties to a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days in jail for first-time offenders and 120 days in jail for repeat offenders.

“Motor vehicle theft is treated as a ‘low level’ crime by Colorado’s criminal justice system,” CSI’s report concluded. “Unless there are significant changes in the way the car theft epidemic is tackled, the quality and safety of Colorado will continue to decline.”