COLORADO SPRINGS — Auto theft is the fastest growing crime in Colorado Springs for the past 6 years. News5 Investigates found cars are being stolen across the city at the staggering rate of 262 per month, according to 2019 data from Colorado Springs Police.
We found out in about half of the recent crimes people made mistakes that provided an opportunity for criminals - cars unlocked and cars left running are among the top mistakes.
“My incident happened in a matter of 20 seconds," said Timothy George. “I came out to go to work forgot my coffee and my cell phone and I went inside to grab it real quick right inside that door right there. And poof! It was gone. It was that fast. They were literally parked in the street right behind me right there.”
Just last year more than 3,000 cars were stolen citywide. Over the past 6 years? 13,723 cars were stolen.
The Colorado Springs Police Department is doing its best to take on the issue. “It seems that the trend is on the rise right now, so you know those numbers are pretty staggering for city of our size,” said CSPD Crime Prevention Officer M.J. Thomson.
In 2018. an average of 225 cars a month were stolen. Last year, officers saw that number grow to 262 vehicles every month.
Of the cars stolen recently, investigators believe in about 40-percent of the cases drivers left their keys in the car and 11 percent were tied to puffing. Officers say these are dangerous numbers that can fuel crime.
“The stolen vehicles are used in another crime whether it's a armed robbery, whether it's a burglary of a motor vehicle where now the next morning or that same day are going down a neighborhood and looking at other cars and they're using that car is a getaway vehicle. There's usually something else to the story,” said Officer Thomson.
Here's what we discovered about recent puffing incidents. In the last three months of 2019, 70 people had their cars stolen after leaving them running. “If we can eliminate it and change their behavior by writing a ticket will do so,” said Officer Thomson.
Learning the hard way Timothy says people need to pay attention to what's happening. “I changed my ways of everything. I put a club on my steering wheel I don't drop my keys on my seat no more and for that matter if I'm not going to get in my car my car is not unlocked. I live in a gated community and I thought that I was safe," said Timothy.
With Colorado's cold winters, it can be tempting to leave the car running and warm yourself up inside. However, under Colorado law it is illegal unless your vehicle has a remote start feature.
Another public safety concern tied to these crimes is the fact so many gun owners keep their weapons in their vehicles unsecured, creating dangers for officers and the community. The best advice to keep your car safe is to lock up and park in well lit areas.
According to the Colorado Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center (ATICC) 20,230 vehicles stolen across the state in 2019. If you'd like to see a map with some of the areas that have the highest reports of auto theft click the following link: Colorado Auto Theft Data.
Additional resources provided by CSPD to help you keep your car safe:
CSPD Crime Prevention
Falcon (Northwest): 444-7246
Gold Hill (Southwest): 385-2117
Sand Creek (Southeast): 444-7276
Stetson Hills (Northeast): 444-3168
To report crimes or suspicious activity call CSPD at 444-7000