DENVER (KDVR) — Lawmakers are making strides to rein in Colorado’s car thefts, but that’s only a part of the battle.
A new bill will change sentencing guidelines for criminals convicted of stealing a car. Currently, Colorado code makes it a high-level crime to steal a higher-value car. A car underneath $1,000 is a misdemeanor rather than a felony, and the severity of the felony increases with the stolen car’s dollar value. The new bill will make the penalty for car thefts equal.
That assumes there’s a criminal to charge, however, and that’s not typically the case in Colorado. At most, police clear about one in six auto thefts, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation data.
“Clearance rate” refers to the share of reported crimes in which a criminal ends up charged.
In Colorado, the clearance rate for auto thefts has been falling as the number of thefts skyrocketed in 2020. Through most of the last decade, the clearance rate hovered between 14% and 15%.
Beginning in 2020, the clearance rate fell one or two points a year. In 2022, preliminary data says the clearance rate was just under 8%, or roughly one in 12 auto thefts.
The rate is even lower in two of the largest sources of auto theft – Denver and Aurora.
In Denver, clearance rates have been falling since before the pandemic. From a high of 13.4%, Denver’s auto theft clearance sank to 6.37% in 2022.
Aurora’s clearance rates have been falling since 2013 when the rate was 15.41%. Last year, the rate was 2.32%.