DENVER – Several new state laws went into effect Saturday, including measures to punish car thieves with increased penalties.
Proponents hope the new laws will also prevent or reduce car theft in Colorado.
The new laws will criminalize all auto theft in Colorado, regardless of the value of a vehicle.
It’s a change that many people, including a bipartisan group of lawmakers, have deemed necessary to combat the rise in auto theft.
According to state crime statistics, a record 41,073 vehicles were stolen in Colorado last year.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau currently ranks Colorado first in stolen vehicles per capita.
When Terisa Jones left her house in Thornton on Saturday morning for work, she was in for a nice surprise.
“I usually leave for work around 5:20,” Jones said. “I went out and my car was not where I parked it last night. And I haven’t found it anywhere. I walked all over our complex.
At first, Jones thought maybe someone had taken his red 2020 Kia Rio for a spin.
Then he thought of other reasons why his car would go away.
“I felt the panic,” Jones said. “I was hoping maybe my apartment complex towed it, but they stopped towing vehicles a couple months ago.”
Terisa Jones Terisa Jones discovered that her red Kia Rio had been stolen last Saturday, the same day new laws aimed at preventing car thefts went into effect.
Jones quickly realized that someone had stolen her car.
Jones’ discovery came on the same day that new state laws aimed at preventing auto theft went into effect.
The new laws criminalize all auto theft in Colorado, regardless of the value of a vehicle.
In addition, there is a new misdemeanor charge for unauthorized use of a vehicle.
The car must not be used in a crime. It must not be damaged. And it must be returned to the owner within 24 hours of reporting the theft.
Someone can only be charged once for motorcycle riding.
Subsequent crimes become crimes.
Denver Police are cracking down on auto thefts.
“Last year, Denver had the worst metropolitan area in terms of auto theft,” said Denver Police Department Commander Jacob Herrera. “Last year we stole 39 cars a day. And this is unacceptable.”
The department says a new pilot program to investigate car theft led to 104 arrests and 80 stolen vehicles recovered from March to June.
“The idea is to create a team that has more resources to investigate car theft, which leads to more arrests, but also better arrests with more evidence and hopefully more serious cases for the [district attorneys]Herrera said.
New car theft laws go into effect in Colorado
Denver Police also encourages car owners to sign up for the DenverTrack program, which pre-authorizes police to track stolen cars in real time using a vehicle’s GPS.
“We can put them on top of where your car is, go undercover, safely track your vehicle and make the arrest where it doesn’t lead to an accident or a police chase,” Herrera said. “Get your car back faster and it didn’t crash into a million pieces.”
Colorado State Patrol says auto thefts are down 22% in the first four months of this year compared to last year.
As for Jones, he has contacted the police to report his car stolen and is waiting.
“I’ve never been in this particular situation,” Jones said. “Not being able to get to work and being in a difficult situation with regards to getting somewhere is a very hopeless feeling because the rent is extremely expensive. Groceries are expensive right now. I’m just trying not to panic, but this will definitely have a big impact on my life moving forward if we don’t get the car back.”
Jones says his 2020 KIA Rio has a temporary plate number of 5059334. He says the temporary tag incorrectly lists the car as white, even though it’s red.
It was last seen near 104th Avenue and Fox Run Parkway.
Anyone who spots the vehicle should call local law enforcement.
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