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Mountain West stands out as car thefts accelerate

Underground garage or modern car parking with lots of vehicles
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Adobe Stock
Underground garage or modern car parking with lots of vehicles

Car thefts rose by 6% nationwide in 2021, and parts of the Mountain West saw some of the nation’s highest theft rates, according to data published last week by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Colorado's stolen car rate – about 661 thefts per 100,000 people – was the nation’s highest, and it marked a 32% increase over 2020. New Mexico and Nevada also made the top ten.

Among metropolitan areas, Denver-Aurora-Lakewood ranked No. 2 in the country, followed by Pueblo, Colo., and Albuquerque, N.M. Billings, Mont., ranked No. 7.

Cale Gould is with the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority, or CATPA. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the uptick.

“Colorado was not absent from that,” Gould said. “We experienced those increases when jails were unable to take offenders due to COVID concerns, reductions in law enforcement personnel…. Many agencies have noted they’ve been understaffed and that (can lead to) increases in crime as well.”

CATPA has an up-to-date map of "hot spots" on its website that allows car owners to check if they live in an area with higher theft. Gould said this is one of many ways people can keep their vehicles safe.

“Go straight down to your house,” Gould said. “Go to your business. Look at incidents of auto thefts this year in your area, and that will give you an idea of how safe your area is. You combine that with if your car is a targeted vehicle, and you start to get an idea of how particularly targeted your vehicle may be, and you can take additional steps as needed to secure yourself and your property.”

CATPA encourages vehicle owners to lock their cars, take their keys with them and park in well-lit areas.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 KUNC. To see more, visit KUNC.

Emma VandenEinde