How did Colorado become one of the worst states for vehicle theft? Auto theft task force officials, reformers disagree.

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“If you’re looking for the cause of why auto theft is up 107% (since 2019), the most likely culprit is economic insecurity, lack of economic opportunity and housing instability,” he said. “Crime has surged as people are stressed and have lost their jobs.”

Layer on top of that the “historic instability” of a global pandemic that has infected more than 82 million people and killed nearly 1 million in the United States alone, Pendergrass said, and it’s no wonder that crime has spiked.

The solution isn’t putting people behind bars after the fact, he said, but doing more to stop auto thefts before they occur. That includes installing better lighting in parking lots and other hot spot areas, increasing police patrols in areas where cases are on the rise and requiring that auto manufacturers include anti-theft technology in more of their vehicles.

“There are no data showing that pre-trial lockup reduces auto theft,” he said. “There are solutions to the auto theft problem that don’t involve arrests and are cheaper.”

As far as laying blaming for rising crime at the feet of Democratic politicians, Pendergrass said the statistics don’t necessarily bear that out. According to homicide data crunched by Lisa Pasko, chair of the University of Denver’s Department of Sociology and Criminology, states led by majority Republican legislatures had big surges in killings, too.


While blue states like California, Colorado and Illinois had increases in murders eclipsing 30% between 2019 and 2020, a red state like Montana saw murders go up by 84% during that time frame. In a Republican state like South Dakota, that increase was 81%. In Kentucky, it was 62%.

In terms of auto thefts, the National Insurance Crime Bureau listed nearly as many red states (Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma) in its top 10 per capita auto theft list as blue states (California, Washington, Oregon).

Herod said the problems are deeper than just getting tougher on criminals.

“These things need to be addressed at their root cause,” she said.

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