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Aurora City Councilman Calls For Mandatory Jail For Car Thieves

(CBS4) - There are car thieves and then, investigators say, there is Timothy Mundell. He is charged with stealing or trying to steal 10 cars in two years. And Aurora City Councilman Dustin Zvonek will tell you there's no reason to think he'll stop.

Timothy Mundell
(credit: Aurora Police)

"Unfortunately what we've seen in the last 6 to 7 years is systematic decriminalization of car theft," Zvonek said.

In 2014, it was a felony to steal any car worth more than $500 under state law. Now, a car has to be worth more than $2,000, or it's a misdemeanor.

"What's essentially happened as a result of state laws becoming so permissive is that stealing cars is like stealing a pocketwatch," said Zvonek.

Which is why he plans to introduce a city ordinance requiring a minimum mandatory sentence of 60 days in jail for those convicted of one auto theft, with repeat offenders serving more time.

"This will be the deterrence to keep people from stealing cars in Aurora," he said.

Nowhere in the country are more people falling victim to car thieves than in Colorado. The number of thefts has increased 88% in the last couple years. But, in Aurora, the spike is even higher. Zvonek says the city has seen a 239% increase over the same period.

Last year, he says, more than 5,500 people were charged with stealing cars in Aurora and, he says, this year car thefts are already up 25% over last year.

Public policy analyst Denise Maes says sending thieves to jail won't help.

"There is already jail time and potentially prison time under state law," Maes said.

She says spending the tax dollars to address the root causes of crime -- including drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness -- would help far more.

"The underlying problem related to car thefts is usually drugs. So why don't you throw good dollars after good policies and address the core problem instead of spending taxpayer dollars on something that doesn't give you good results."

And it's a lot of tax dollars. In Arapahoe County, a sixty day jail stay costs $7,680.

Zvonek says the cost of doing nothing will be far greater.

"Motor vehicle theft is not just a property crime because people who are stealing cars? They're not just going and joyriding. They're using these cars to commit other crime.

"I want to send the message that Aurora is the most punitive city in the state to steal a car so don't come steal cars here because you're going to go to jail."

The proposed ordinance also requires mandatory jail for those who fail to show up to court and hefty fines for car thieves to help car owners pay the impound fees when their vehicles are recovered.

The sheriffs in Adams and Arapahoe counties, where the car thieves would be jailed, say they support stiffer penalties. Zvonek will present the ordinance to the Public Safety Committee, which he chairs, next week.

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