WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Weld County deputies say one man is responsible for a string of property crimes across northern Colorado. The final price tag of his doings? Close to $500,000.
Earlier this month, deputies with the Weld County Sheriff’s Office Strike Team took Colton Thompson into custody. The team is a specialized unit that "hunts fugitives and conducts investigations into crime rings," according to Sheriff Steve Reams.
Prior to his arrest, Thompson was considered Weld County's most wanted suspect for more than a month. He faces 25 counts, including 18 felonies, with many of the charges involving theft or burglary.
"We just lost a lot," said Rustin Fichtner, who lives in northern Colorado. "Now we have to invest even more to just feel safe on a piece of land that we ultimately want to live on and call home."
Fichtner is one of Thompson's "countless" victims, according to Joseph Moylan of the Weld County Sheriff's Office.
"I do know that he was targeting those large ticket items — cars, ATVs, tools," Moylan said. "I think [Thompson] is responsible for close to half a million dollars worth of property theft. That's a significant amount of property steal all by yourself."
Moylan says Thompson is suspected to be a part of a larger property crime ring in northern Colorado. Thompson is also suspected in multiple other crimes, and additional charges could be brought forth.
According to data provided by the Weld County Sheriff's Office, stolen property offenses in the county increased by about 41 percent from 2020 to 2021.
Fichtner estimates at least $25,000-worth of property, including tools and a utility vehicle, was stolen from a shed on his mountain property. He was first alerted to the crime on a snowy morning in February.
"I got a call from a friend that lives up in Pinewood, just north of here, basically asking if I had been up to the property that weekend," Fichtner said. "I said, "No, we had too much snow." He said, "Well I saw tire tracks on your driveway and I assumed you attempted to get up.""
Fichtner and his wife went to the mountain trail and discovered the tire tracks turned into footprints along the trail leading to the shed.
"To get to this spot and walk a mile up a very steep driveway in six to eight inches of snow, they came here with a purpose," Fichtner said.
Deputies would later identify Thompson as the culprit through video captured by a trail camera.
Fortunately, detectives were able to recover Fichtner's stolen utility vehicle, but his sense of security remains long gone.
"We've invested in multiple surveillance cameras now that are at our gate and we've posted signs appropriately to make sure that people can clearly see them and hopefully deters thieves in the future," he said. "But nothing is foolproof — we get that."
Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of Thompson's crimes is asked to contact the Weld County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 356-4015 or Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website.
Deputies at the Weld County Sheriff's Office provided the below list of tips to avoid becoming property crime victim.
- Lock your car and take your keys with you
- Park in your garage. If you don’t have one, park in a well-lit area.
- Install cameras, such as Ring, Google Nest or trail cameras.
- Secure ATVs, farm equipment, etc. in garages or locked outbuildings.
- Take an inventory of your tools, noting the serial numbers for large-ticket items (same goes for firearms). Snap a photo with your phone.
- For hand tools, put your name or your company’s name on it, phone number or paint it, like the handle of a hammer for example, to make it easily identifiable and less desirable to thieves.
- Don’t leave tools at the jobsite or in your truck if you don’t have to. Make sure there is somewhere secure to store tools at the end of the day if they are staying at the job.
- If you have a record of your tools' serial number, or you did something to make it distinguishable from similar tools, it makes it much easier for authorities to return recovered property to their owners.