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Colorado Car Theft Victims Join Forces To Take Action Against Thieves

(CBS4) - Auto thefts across the state are showing no signs of slowing down, according to the latest report from the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

A look at the first quarter of 2022 shows nearly 100 vehicles are stolen every day from the Denver metro area.

Tony Leyba had his truck stolen within minutes of arriving at work in Denver.

"Got out of the truck, went in ... came back out and my truck was gone," he told CBS4.

Sarah Shroeder had her red sedan taken from in front of her home.

"My vehicle was stolen from my driveway," she said.

And Kristie Collier had her new vehicle stolen before she had a chance to put plates on.

"I didn't even have it for one day," Collier said.

All are victims of rampant auto theft happening on Colorado's Front Range, but each of the six victims CBS4 interviewed have another connection: they found their vehicles, or the thieves, through work of their own.

Kelsey Norton replaced a stolen vehicle only to have her new SUV taken again, so she posted a photo of the Chevy Suburban on social media. Someone thought they spotted it, so Norton and her family went to check it out. When they confirmed it was hers, they called police, who released it back to her and then left.

While they were waiting for a tow truck to arrive, the thief returned.

"They just came running out and he had a gun pulled on us," she said.

Pat Lively didn't have time to wait for police and confronted the thieves on his own.

"Here was my vehicle coming through the light, so I pulled over and literally cut my own vehicle off," he said.

When Leyba got a message on social media from someone who had seen his truck, he went looking for it as well and found it.

He also called police to help recover the vehicle, but when he got in to driveaway, there were items that didn't belong to him inside.

"I opened up the center console and there's 22 grams of meth and two kilos of heroin in my center console, so I put my hands up and I backed up and said 'You have to take care of that,'" Leyba said he told the officer.

Almost all of the victims CBS4 spoke with used social media to help locate their stolen vehicles.

Collier, who had her same vehicle stolen twice in less than two weeks, was alerted by a friend that a member of the Facebook group Colorado Stolen Cars had found it.

"He says 'I think this is your vehicle, was it stolen again?'" Collier said. She responded "Yes, it was stolen again and that is my car, thank you."

Mike Lewis runs the Facebook group and says each post is required to have a case number, and that members are always searching.

"The police actually... they just don't have enough people. That's how basic it is. They can't go out and they can't look for people's cars and 30,000 people -- that's 60,000 eyeballs out there," he said about the group.

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CBS4 sat down with Sgt. Troy Kessler, a spokesperson with the Colorado State Patrol, to talk about one of their units -- the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority -- and the report showing that once again auto theft cases are up.

"What's happening is our vehicle theft suspects are being caught but they are not being kept and it is known that we are not getting more offenders, we are getting the same offenders multiple times," Kessler said.

He says while he understands the desire to try and track down your own vehicle. He says searching for it is one thing, but he warns against going any further.

"Do not approach (the car) yourself because the people that are involved in motor vehicle theft can be very dangerous," he said.

Victims are just hoping that whatever is behind the soaring numbers that something is done about the problem soon.

"They are getting frustrated and aggravated," Leyba said about victims.

"With this continuing to happen, I know people are going to try to take the law into their own hands, which can just end way worse," Levi Laguarida, another victim, said.

When asked what, if any, steps are being taken to change the laws that law enforcement officials believe are behind the soaring numbers, Kessler says right now Colorado State Patrol and the Auto Theft Prevention Authority "do not have a stance or anything to release to what we have or are planning on doing with that."

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