AURORA, Colo. — As the temperatures rise, police around the Denver metro area are reminding people to roll up their windows and lock their car doors, even in their own garage.
Police departments are working together to try to stop the number of car thefts they are seeing.
Several police departments are reporting an increase in the number of auto thefts that are being reported, including Aurora.
“This is not just limited to Aurora. We are seeing a lot of stolen vehicles around the country. We actually recover a lot of stolen vehicles from other parts of the region in Aurora. Our officers are very alert to those kinds of activities and they end up apprehending quite a few suspects involved,” said Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz.
In Aurora, car thefts rose 35 percent in the first quarter, to 615 during the first three months of 2018 compared to 455 during that same time span in 2017.
“Part of the problem, unfortunately, is they’re not getting a lot of jail time and so those stolen vehicles are often committed by repeat offenders,” Metz said.
In Denver, meanwhile, police data shows a smaller increase in car thefts this year. Between January and April, 1,706 cars were stolen compared to 1,461 in 2017. That’s a 17-percent increase in thefts.
Meanwhile, Lakewood has seen its numbers rise over the past several years, from 871 in 2015 to 1,011 in 2016 to 1,209 in 2017. The data for this year is not yet available.
“It’s also in my mind a gateway crime. People that use or steal vehicles can oftentimes use those vehicles for robberies or burglaries or other kinds of crimes. For us to get these, what I consider career criminals, off the street is incredibly important,” Metz said.
A big concern for police officers is the dangers car thieves pose to their safety and that of the public.
In February, El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick was murdered and four others were injured when they tried to confront a car theft suspect.
Then on May 25, a Lakewood police officer was run over while approaching a stolen vehicle.
Beyond the threat these suspects pose to the public, Chief Metz says he wants people to keep in mind that this is not a victimless crime and it can have lasting impacts on families.
“A stolen vehicle for a lot of families is a huge, life-impacting event. They may not have the kind of insurance that’s going to provide them a replacement vehicle,” Metz said. “These folks depend on their vehicles to get to and from work and to get their kids to school, and so when a vehicle stolen it’s not just, ‘OK I don’t have a car so I’m going to get another one in an hour,’” Metz said.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the top car models that are stolen are:
- Honda Civic
- Honda Accord
- Subaru Impreza
- Ford F-250
- Chevrolet Silverado (full size)
- Jeep Cherokee
- Ford F-350
- Ford F-150
- Dodge Ram Pickup
- Subaru Legacy
The bureau’s data shows Denver was the worst for car thefts in Colorado in 2017, followed by Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo, Lakewood, Thornton and Westminster.
Aurora police are working closely with Denver and other departments in the area to curb car thefts.
They are also asking the public to help out by locking your doors, rolling up your windows, not leaving your car running and unattended and parking in well-lit areas.