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DIA unveils strategies to fight car thefts

For the first seven months of 2023, thieves stole 378 vehicles from airport lots, DIA said. Other, busier airports had far fewer.

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) announced a new plan Wednesday to combat soaring car thefts that have far outpaced even busier airports.

In the first seven months of the year, DIA said thieves stole 378 cars and trucks from airport parking lots. By comparison, the nation's busiest airport -- Atlanta -- reported ten times fewer thefts in the same time period. 

"It’s frustrating even to think about it," said Blaise Johnson, whose 2005 F-350 pickup was stolen from west economy parking last month. "You expect a level of kind of reassurance that [thieves] are not just going to be able come in here and take this — and they still did."

The airport said it will add cameras and increase security patrols at airport lots. It is working with Denver Police to examine strengthening barriers at exits and has added new technology to alert authorities of stolen vehicles when they arrive on airport property. 

"It wasn’t a problem in the past. It is now. And one stolen car is one too many so we’re doing some things to address it," said airport spokesperson Stacey Stegman. "We don’t want to see our customers coming home from a trip and being impacted by something like that."

Stegman said the entire Denver metro area is affected by rising car thefts and the airport has been working on its plan to curb them for weeks. Parking fees from the airport lots where cars were stolen totaled more than $128 million dollars in the first seven months of 2023, records obtained by 9NEWS show.

Stegman said comparing the number of thefts from DIA to busier American airports like Atlanta (which reported 40 thefts from January through July) and Dallas-Fort Worth (which reported 113) is not fair as DIA has more parking spots and fewer connecting passengers. 

"You’re really comparing apples to oranges," Stegman said. "While that is 378 way too many [thefts], your chances of being struck by lighting are greater than having your vehicle stolen at the airport."

Johnson said he'd take his chances with the lightning. "Something's got to change."

Days after his truck was stolen, he said Wheat Ridge police found it trashed. He considered trying to fix up his "pride and joy," but insurance totaled the car after measurements showed the thieves used hazardous levels of drugs inside the vehicle. 

"They’ll crush it," he said. "And that just breaks my heart even more. A lot of good memories with this truck."

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