DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s auto theft problem is only getting worse, and it’s concentrated the most by far in two counties.
Comparing Colorado’s most recent auto theft rates to those of other states is difficult under the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new system. The FBI switched from the older Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) to the newer National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2021. Some states have not fully made the transition yet, so making comparisons across states leaves some data potentially missing in the years after 2020.
Nevertheless, analysis from the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s database of reported thefts pegged Colorado with the highest rate of auto theft in both 2021 and the first half of 2022.
By that point, Colorado already had the nation’s highest auto theft rate anyway, and local statistics say it has only risen since then.
Auto theft grew in the pandemic across the country, but the Centennial State saw the most dramatic increase. Colorado’s auto theft rate climbed by the fastest rate in the nation from 2011 to 2020 – 144%. Mountain and Great Plains states saw the same trend, though to a smaller scale. South Dakota’s auto theft rate grew 125% over the same time period.
By 2020, Colorado’s auto theft rate was 524.3 thefts per every 100,000 people – more than double the national rate of 256 and the only state with more than 500 thefts per 100,000.
Since then, the number of auto thefts has continued skyrocketing. Colorado Bureau of Investigation data says the number of auto thefts in Colorado grew by 46% between 2020 and 2022.
The bulk of the 46,195 statewide thefts in 2022 happened in just two counties – Adams County and the City and County of Denver.
In 2022, there were 15,267 auto thefts in Denver alone. Adams County tallied 12,539. Together, Adams and Denver counties represented 61% of the state’s auto theft.
Over four in five Colorado auto thefts happen in just five counties. Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, El Paso and Jefferson Counties together represent 83% of the state’s auto thefts in 2022.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has a 30-day lag for data entry, and only includes the most recent full month. This allows some room for adjustment to the December statistics and therefore the full year, however it is expected to be minimal.