DENVER — Auto thefts and vehicle break-ins rose significantly in the first four months of 2022 at Denver International Airport (DIA) and in surrounding areas, according to police records.
That is on top of this reality: Over the past five years, six of the top 11 auto-theft hot spots in the city were in the area of DIA and surrounding parking lots and motels, according to Denver police data.
It’s a reality that Terri Finney learned after returning home from a trip to Phoenix to play golf with friends in February 2021.
“My boyfriend and I parked side by side at the airport,” she said. “His truck was there. My car was not.”
She initially thought maybe she’d parked somewhere else. Then she located a police officer.
“He looked up my car and he said, ‘Well, your car was used in a crime earlier today,’” she told 9Wants to Know. “And I thought, ‘This must be Law and Order.’”
According to Denver police data, District 7 – which covers the area of the city where DIA and surrounding parking lots and motels are located – averaged 46 vehicle thefts in the first four months of 2019, 2020 and 2021,
This year, through April 30, there had been 139 auto thefts in that same district.
It’s the same with vehicle break-ins, which averaged 25 over the same period of the past four years. This year, there were 65 through the end of April.
This data was first obtained by Steamboat Radio and KRAI.
“Unfortunately, the issue is across the greater Denver metropolitan area,” DIA spokeswoman Stephanie Figueroa said. “We’re not unique in any way.”
She said Denver police are patrolling more in response to the rise in auto thefts and vehicle break-ins, but there’s a lot of ground to cover.
“We have over 40,000 public parking spaces,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa urged people to always lock their cars, roll up the windows, take their keys and other belongings with them, park in a well-lit or busy area whenever possible, and consider an alarm system or a wheel-locking device. She also cautioned people to never leave a car running or unattended – even for a short period of time.
“We want passengers to feel safe while parking at the airport. But also keep in mind, it’s just like parking at any other public place, right?” Figueroa said. “So any of those same precautions you would take in any other public place, you take those at the airport as well.”
For Finney, the experience was costly.
She said her car was totaled – it was damaged, and the perpetrators smoked meth in it – but her insurance payout didn’t cover the cost of replacing it. She also lost time at work and incurred other expenses.
Denver police arrested a man and a woman in the theft of her car. Both pleaded guilty to lesser charges in plea deals reached with Denver prosecutors.
The woman was sentenced to two years of probation; the man is awaiting sentencing.
9Wants to Know producer Zack Newman contributed to this report.
Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: email@example.com or 303-871-1862
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