COLORADO, USA — The Colorado Metropolitan Auto Theft Taskforce (C-MATT) is the agency in charge of tracking vehicle thefts in multiple counties across the Denver metro area.
According to C-MATT, motor vehicle thefts increased 24% in the first quarter of 2022 when compared to the first quarter of 2021.
On average, nearly 100 vehicles are stolen each day in the Denver metro area, according to C-MATT.
“They call it the cycle of violence, it's the cycle of auto theft,” said Mike Greenwell with C-MATT.
Denver has been a hot spot for stolen vehicles since January 2022. There have been 3,290 vehicles stolen, according to C-MATT. That is the most in the metro.
Arapahoe County is second with 1,931 stolen vehicles in the same timeframe, C-MATT reports. Adams County was third with 1,685 stolen vehicles, followed by Jefferson County with 1,260, according to data from C-MATT.
So, why are we seeing such a large increase in stolen vehicles?
"We're arresting the same people and putting them in jail and then re-arrest them," Greenwell said.
Law enforcement in Colorado filed nearly 5,500 cases of felony motor vehicle theft in 2021, C-MATT said. That's up from 4,600 cases filed in 2020, according to C-MATT data.
Felony charges usually mean jail time, but Greenwell said in some cases, that is not happening.
"There is a lot more plea bargaining going on, motor vehicle theft being that charge," Greenwell said.
C-MATT does not have data on the number of motor vehicle theft arrests that lead to convictions. The task force does say that there is a trend. Repeat, violent, and first time offenders of auto theft are getting a slap on the wrist.
With Colorado courts backlogged from the pandemic and a shortage space in jails and prisons, C-MATT says some cases are pled down to a fine, probation or dismissed all together.
"Taxpayers are paying a lot of money to arrest these people, and so we put them in jail," Greenwell said. "And then they are released."
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