Car thief explains how he targeted, stole 100 cars

12:57 AM, Nov 23, 2011   |    comments
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9NEWS requested the Auto Theft Intelligence Coordination Center run a tracking report which shows 5,311 vehicles have been stolen since the beginning of 2011.

The most common passenger vehicle stolen was the Honda Accord, followed by the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Acura Integra.

The most common stolen pick-up was the Chevrolet 1500. Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 are next on the list.

Jeep Cherokees, Jeep Wranglers and Ford Explorers were the most common SUVs reported stolen.

Video posted on a site dedicated to reducing car theft, a man can be seen allegedly stealing a car in seconds.

"Most people think it's just a property crime, but we know that most auto thefts involve violent crimes drug deals, homicides. People are using stolen cars to commit [crimes]," Carole Walker, a Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority board member, said.

Drugs are exactly why Nicholas Carlson, 33, says he started stealing cars.

"I was like 13 when I stole my first car," Carlson told 9Wants to Know in an interview at the Trinidad Correctional Facility.

He estimated he stole up to 100 cars before he was sentenced to prison for one of his crimes.

"Honestly, if I want your car, I will get it," he said. "Hondas are the easiest to steal. The ignitions are easy."

Carlson agreed to talk to 9Wants to Know because he says he wants to change his life. He also says he is willing to help others protect their cars. 

Read Jace Larson's blog entry about how he was able to interview Carlson and his blog entry about shooting a portion of his television story.

"You look for a car without an alarm," Carlson said.

He also selected cars parked in dark areas.

"I would get into a car first because you make the most noise getting into a car," he said. "I would do that and then leave it open. I would come back a couple of hours later, and it's still open, and no one heard you obviously, then, I got time to get the car started."

Carlson says he learned to take cars in seconds. Watch our full interview with Carlson here.

That's how long undercover police officers who are part of the East Metro Auto Theft (EMAT) Task Force say crooks with experience take.

The officers are part of a special group from different jurisdictions who target auto theft exclusively.

People who insure vehicles in Colorado pay an additional $1-per-year, which funds task forces such as EMAT.

The officers drive everyday cars with no police lights or sirens. The officers work undercover and don't look like typical police officers.

Some have long beards. Others have long hair. They wear baggy sweatshirts and baseball caps while working each day.

"The hope is that we can go into certain areas and certain places and fit in without people recognizing who we are," one of the undercover officers told 9Wants to Know.

"We've had robbery suspects and shooting suspects all in stolen cars," another officer said.

The officers use ruses to catch people suspected of stealing cars or selling stolen cars.

Some nights they drive around and check license plates or VIN numbers to see if any have been reported stolen.

An alert officer tipped off the task force officers after Daniel Howell's Honda Accord LX was stolen. Officers watched the stolen vehicle until two teenagers came from an apartment complex and got into the car.

The team swarmed the car with guns drawn and arrested the teens.

Howell got his car back, but it was missing the ignition and radio. Replacing his ignition cost $230.

He credits the task force with stopping the people who took his car.

"It's amazing the officers found it," Howell said.

Since the EMAT task force formed in 2010, team members recovered $1.3 million in stolen cars.

Have a comment or tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson? Call him at 303-871-1432 or e-mail him at

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