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Car Thefts Skyrocket Due To COVID, Task Force Commander: 'It's Going To Get Worse'

DENVER (CBS4) - The commander of a multi-agency police task force on Colorado's Front Range says as car thefts spike, "Unless there's consequences, it's going to get worse." Commander Mike Greenwell oversees the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force, comprised of police from seven jurisdictions. In 2020, car thefts in the metro area jumped nearly 55% from 2019.

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Greenwell believes it's because career car thieves know even if they are arrested, they won't spend much time in jail due to COVID-19.

"Until there's consequences for these types of crimes and people are held accountable, I don't think we're going to see it calm down," said Greenwell.

Motor vehicle thefts surged last year with every metro county seeing double digit increases in car thefts ranging from a low of 46% in Adams County to a high of 82% in Broomfield County.

In the task force's 2020 annual report, Sheridan saw a 107% increase in car thefts while Castle Rock wasn't far behind with a 97% increase. On the other end of the spectrum, Cherry Hills Village registered a 25% decrease in car thefts while the town of Mountain View had a 50% drop.

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Greenwell cites a number of factors leading to the surge:

  • People staying home, their cars stayed on the streets and were not closely watched
  • COVID's impact on jobs and the economy put people in a position of needing money, and selling stolen cars can be a fast buck

"Our thieves quickly learned they were not going to jail," said Greenwell. "That's the biggest factor. We'd have them sitting on the side of the road in handcuffs and they'd tell us, 'take the cuffs off because you know I'm not going to jail.'"

The task force commander said until there are legislative and judicial changes in how repeat car thieves are treated, he believes the numbers will worsen. If there is a positive aspect to the increase in car thefts, it may be that 87% of the cars stolen in 2020 were recovered.

Greenwell says to protect yourself from auto thieves, always make sure you remove your keys and key fobs from your cars.

Remove all valuables from your car so it is less enticing for thieves. Consider a theft deterrent like a club and car alarms.

Greenwell said right now, he is seeing an increase in thefts of trucks and vehicles used in  construction. He said those kinds of vehicles are being targeted because of valuable tools that are left inside them.

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