Colorado’s Plague Of Car Thefts – And How To Protect Your Ride

Dec 14, 2022 | Car Theft

Colorado has the dubious distinction of having the worst car theft rate in the nation, and a new report from the Common Sense Institute suggests that isn’t going to change any time soon. In 2021 roughly 37,000 vehicles were reported stolen in the state, and reports for the first half of 2022 suggest the total might run as high as 48,000 this year.

The 2021 theft total works out to 661 thefts per 100,000 people, outdistancing Washington, D.C., and California for the highest rate of thefts in the country.  Nationally, auto thefts have been on the increase in recent years, with 804,000 stolen vehicles in 2020 alone, valued at more than $7 billion. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a car is stolen every 39 seconds in the U.S.

Colorado’s high rate has been the subject of heated political debate, with some calling for tougher penalties for car theft and other measures. Whatever the reasons behind the increase, it’s clear that car theft remains largely a crime of opportunity. Denver is the epicenter of the state’s theft epidemic, with lower-income neighborhoods and owners of less expensive cars disproportionately affected. The leading location for thefts is Denver International Airport, where vehicles left behind by those flying out of state are prime targets.

Surprisingly, in up to half of all car theft cases, driver carelessness contributes to the problem. A great deal of the theft problem can be avoided by taking a few common-sense precautions. Here are a few tips recommended by the NHTSA and auto theft prevention experts:

  • Don’t leave your car running unattended. So-called “puffer” vehicles that drivers have left idling to warm up on cold winter mornings draw thieves like crazy, which is why so many Colorado municipalities have laws limiting or prohibiting the practice.
  • Don’t make it easy. Take your keys, lock all windows and doors, and park in a well-lit area. If you have access to a garage, use it to protect your car, not for random storage.
  • Never leave valuables in your vehicle, especially if they are visible to passersby.
  • Add after-market barriers to theft. Most vehicles have some form of anti-theft alarm now, but anything you can do to make a thief think twice is a good thing: steering wheel locks, theft-deterrent decals, flashing lights, or other distractions could help spare your ride.
  • Prioritize theft prevention in your next car purchase. Many newer models offer a range of anti-theft options, from devices that prevent hot-wiring to special computer chips in ignition keys to tracking devices that help the owner recover a stolen vehicle. It also makes sense to check the NHTSA database of stolen vehicle data, which can be used to compare which makes and models seem to be more popular with thieves (or easier to steal).


File a police report. You may need to provide license plate, VIN number, make and model, and other information. Then contact your insurance company to file a claim within 24 hours. If you find the vehicle before authorities do, be sure to let them know of its recovery.


For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Fort Collins, Thornton, Grand Junction, Greeley, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032, or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.