Trending Topics

Colorado sees all-time high for auto theft, up 82% since 2019

The Colorado State Patrol emphasized the need for owner vigilance

keys in ignition

Getty Images

By Morgan McKenzie
Greeley Tribune, Colo.

GREELEY, Colo. — Law enforcement agencies across the state are urging residents to steer clear of leaving vehicles unattended and unlocked after a substantial increase in vehicle thefts within the past year.

In 2021, more Colorado residents than ever experienced some form of auto theft, according to a news release from the Colorado State Patrol.

A 2021 Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center Report from the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority indicated there has been an 88% increase in vehicle thefts since 2017 with 36,932 cases statewide. Colorado has also experienced an 82% spike in vehicle thefts since 2019.

Locally, Greeley and Evans have seen an identical pattern when it comes to auto theft. The Greeley Police Department reported 569 auto thefts in 2021, up from 263 in 2017.

“As you can see, we’ve seen an even higher increase than the state average — about 116% comparing 2021 and 2017,” said Ian Hunt, the department’s crime analyst.

The Evans Police Department is facing a similar situation, with department data showing 122 auto thefts in 2021, up from 55 in 2017.

As of Wednesday morning, 32 vehicle thefts have been reported to Evans police this year, according to Rachel Volz, records specialist for the department.

One of the main factors that contribute to the increase of this type of crime is vehicle owner apathy or complacency, according to CSP. Volz said this factor can be seen locally as the recent uptick stems from many owners leaving vehicles running unattended. Similarly, the spike in numbers ties in with owners who leave vehicles unlocked with the keys inside, Hunt concurred.

Leaving a running car unattended, also known as “puffing,” has become a major issue as Colorado has shifted into the colder weather months, according to Greeley police.

Although going inside to stay warm with freezing temperatures seems like the ideal option, leaving a running car unattended with the keys inside makes vehicles an easy target for a puffer theft.

Greeley police reported a 447% increase in puffer thefts from June 2021 to January 2022.

Despite the unsettling statistics, Hunt said the department recovered 89% of stolen vehicles in 2021. The Greeley Police Department has two detectives assigned to the North BATTLE Team, a task force dedicated to recovering stolen vehicles and identifying chop shops and vehicle theft suspects.

CSP reported the top “most at-risk” stolen vehicles are the Chevrolet Silverado, Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Ford F series trucks.

Most view a stolen vehicle incident as having one victim: the person whose vehicle is stolen. However, CSP advises stolen vehicle cases should matter to everyone since this type of theft can generate other crimes.

“This is a multi-victim crime that aids other crimes,” CSP said.

Oftentimes, stolen vehicles are used to partake in other offenses including drug use or sales, other thefts, armed robberies, burglaries, assaults, homicides and more.

“Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Drive it like you stole it?’” the release asked. “Auto thieves drive recklessly with willful disregard to other motorists, pedestrians and laws, speeding excessively, running traffics lights, cutting other vehicles off, passing on the shoulders and attempting to elude law enforcement.”

The reckless driving of stolen vehicles thieves can result in crashes causing injury to themselves and others, according to CSP, who calls the actions on the road “completely selfish and dangerous to everyone.”

Colorado residents may also fall victim to purchasing a stolen vehicle — losing out on money and a new car. To avoid falling victim to this crime, CSP advises those purchasing a new vehicle to follow tips from

Overall, most auto theft crimes, despite the rise in reports, could have been prevented with an owner’s commitment to not providing an easy target for criminals, according to the release.

“Everyone wants a safe place to live, commute and play,” CSP said. “Please do yourselves, your neighbors, co-workers, friends and your other community members a favor. Take your keys and always lock your vehicle to bring these numbers down and make Colorado a safer place.”

(c)2022 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

A majority of respondents to a recent survey support revising laws to remove the authority of police over minor violations that now are grounds for a vehicle stop
In one body camera video, a trooper and bystanders run toward an SUV to pull a person to safety
Always be prepared for questions about your agency’s traffic stop responses, policy and patrol officer training
The injunction bans a technique wherein troopers would step away from the car, ending the official stop, and then immediately return to ask more questions on a “voluntary” basis