Colorado has the highest rate of auto theft in the nation. It’s No. 1 among the states — and it’s worse than just an embarrassing and dubious distinction. It’s also a potent reminder of the state’s skyrocketing crime rate overall, including for violent crimes, drug crimes and property crimes. Rampant motor vehicle thefts fuel those other crimes, as well, police will tell you; stolen vehicles often enough are used in the commission of other crimes.
Now, a fed-up city councilman in the state’s No. 3 city wants to crack down. Tired of waiting for a statewide response, Councilman Dustin Zvonek in Aurora is pushing his city to act locally.
Kudos to the councilman for setting an example for Denver, Colorado Springs and a host of other Colorado communities where seemingly nothing on wheels is safe from plunder.
As The Gazette reported earlier this year, auto thefts in Colorado soared 88% since 2017, according to numbers compiled by the state. And as reported this week by Denver’s Channel 7 News, auto theft in Aurora leapt by nearly triple the statewide rate in the same time — by an astounding 239%.
Zvonek will introduce legislation next week calling on fellow council members to set a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 days for all car theft in the city. A 10-day mandatory minimum sentence also would be imposed on auto-theft suspects who are charged but fail to show up in court. Right now, auto thieves in Aurora often wind up on probation, Zvonek says.
The freshman council member was elected last November, partly on a public-safety platform. He ran as one of a slate of council candidates who sought successfully to flip the previous council majority and its soft-on-crime policies. So, the tide already may have turned in Aurora.
“Our residents deserve better, we must take bold action,” Zvonek posted to his Facebook page this week. “This plan, supported and enforced aggressively by law enforcement agencies throughout the city and counties, will send a very clear message that the City of Aurora is not the city for offenders to choose to commit motor vehicle theft.”
Zvonek sees runaway auto theft in the broader context of the justice system’s breakdown in the state, and he’s right.
“In Colorado, over the past six, seven years, we've seen a systematic effort to decriminalize everything to the point to where we're decriminalizing crime," Zvonek told Denver 7 News. “I'm not saying we have to throw everybody in jail and lock them up, but we have to have more severe penalties.”
The statewide wave of auto theft stems in large part from a criminal-coddling political movement that of course extends well beyond Aurora’s former council majority. The state legislature has done its level best over the past several sessions to reduce or eliminate time behind bars for criminals convicted of wide-ranging crimes. The legislature even has made it harder to charge them in the first place. A law passed last year, for example, deprives law officers of the ability to charge previously convicted felons with felony possession of a firearm.
Where it all ends depends on when voters decide they’ve had enough of the crime tsunami that has inundated Colorado. Meanwhile, at least one Colorado community is showing the rest of the state the first step in the right direction.