DENVER (KDVR) — Denver’s chief of police is getting candid with FOX31, breaking down why his officers can’t stop the spiking trend in car thefts despite making increasing numbers of arrests.

Denver passed 6,000 car thefts for 2022 this week. The city is averaging about 33 cars stolen a day. 

“Colorado has the single highest rate of auto theft of any of the 50 states, we are number one across the country,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said. 

Chief Pazen looks for answers in statistics, starting with his officer’s arrest rates.

“We’ve arrested 46% more auto theft suspects last year than against our three-year baseline,” Pazen said. “So, our officers are doing their part, what is lacking is any sort of consequence.”

Pazen references a map comparing Colorado to the rest of the United States’ auto theft numbers over the years. He pointed out the time period between 2014 to 2020 when Colorado goes from the middle of the pack to number one in the nation.

“This is indicative of statewide policy changes where we declassified or took away some of the penalties for individuals that were stealing cars,” he said. “Other laws that have passed during some of these time periods were getting people out of jail within 4 hours.”

In 2014, Pazen said stolen cars went from a class four felony to class five and six. He said that the change had a significant impact when 97% of cases were pled down and only 3% went to trial.

“If they’re walking in the door with an F6, that’s going to get pled down to a misdemeanor one or two, which is a slap on the wrist,” he said. 

Pazen said criminals’ behavior needs to change in order to see trends get better.

“This statewide data is indicative of, from my perspective, that there is nothing to change this behavior. We hear it from the folks that steal cars. Officers who arrest somebody for a stolen car are constantly told, ‘hey, you know, I’m going to be done and out before you even finish the paperwork,” Pazen said.

Back in February, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that he asked a team with the city attorney’s office to review a risk assessment tool that courts are using to consider bonds.

FOX31’s Nicole Fierro asked for an update on the review Wednesday. They said that last week, the Mayor got a recommendation to transition to a newer version of the Colorado Pretrial Assessment Tool. The Mayor supported the recommendation and now the next step is for the Court to approve the use of the new tool.