Colorado car thefts are soaring and growing more dangerous
Driving the news: Just over a week ago, a Denver officer was shot in the back of the neck after apprehending a suspect who allegedly stole a car.
- A Denver man accused of stealing a Jeep on Sunday in Lakewood crashed the vehicle into an ambulance, injuring four people — including two firefighters. The man later told police he was forced by a female passenger to drive the vehicle at gunpoint.
- A month earlier, an officer in Lafayette was shot in the leg at a gas station by a suspect in a stolen car. The alleged shooter was killed by police gunfire in the front seat.
What they're saying: Criminals appear emboldened, intentionally firing guns and smashing into vehicles to distract police and flee, Mike Greenwell, commander of the Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force, told 9News.
- "We know that 74% of the people that get arrested for auto theft are also charged with another felony crime of some type. The vast majority of those are violent crimes," he said.
By the numbers: As of Dec. 5, auto theft in Denver has skyrocketed to 71% for the year, compared to the city's three-year average, according to Denver Police Department data.
- At least 13,911 cars in the Mile High City have been reported stolen by local law enforcement so far this year, compared to the previous peak of 11,758 in all of 2021.
- The Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force estimates 41,600 cars will be nabbed statewide — up 12% from last year.
- The estimated value of stolen vehicles this year totals between $468.1 million and $848.3 million, per a Common Sense Institute report from September.
State of play: Arrests aren't keeping up with the state's vehicular robbery rate, data shows.
- In the first six months of the year, Colorado's arrest rate per motor vehicle theft was 9.4%, down from 15.5% in 2019, according to the Common Sense Institute.
- The Denver Police Department did not immediately respond to Axios Denver's request for information regarding how the agency is combating the rise in auto theft and why the trend is worsening.
What to watch: The Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force is calling for tougher punishments for people convicted of stealing cars.
- Auto theft "needs to be considered more than just a property crime," Greenwell told 9News. "We have offenders tell us, 'Just let me go. You know I'm not going to stay in jail. You know I'm not going to be sent to prison.'"
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