Pueblo sees record high auto thefts in 2022

The city of Pueblo reported a record number of auto thefts in 2022 and saw a 23% increase in motor vehicle thefts over 2021, according to data from the Pueblo Police Department.

In 2022, Pueblo reported 1,752 motor vehicle thefts compared to 1,472 in 2021.

"Puffer" thefts — thefts in which an individual left their car running unattended to warm up — accounted for 3% of that number, with 58 thefts.

The action of leaving a vehicle running unattended, except in cases in which the vehicle has a remote start, is illegal in Colorado, and violators may be subject to a fine.

Of the vehicles reported stolen in 2022, 1,186 were recovered, some in Pueblo and some outside of city limits, for a 67% recovery rate.

More:Pueblo Police Department sounding the alarm about 'puffer' thefts

Between 40% and 50% of vehicle theft is due to "driver apathy," according to Pueblo PD, which defines driver apathy as any action that makes a car easier to steal, such as leaving a vehicle running, unlocked, or leaving an additional key in the vehicle.

Auto thefts are often committed by repeat offenders, Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller told the Chieftain.

"I would say a majority of our auto theft suspects are multiple offenders for that charge," he said.

"The problem with auto theft is it's often looked at as just a property crime ... but a lot of times that car is then used in the commission of other crimes, whether that be drive-by shootings, robberies, or any number of offenses that are significantly more violent than just the theft itself."

When Pueblo police officers approach auto theft suspects, those suspects may also be armed, Noeller said, making it a dangerous situation for officers to contact the suspect.

Noeller stated that he would support legislation being discussed by Colorado lawmakers that could reclassify all auto thefts as felonies, regardless of the vehicle's value.

"That's a huge piece of what would help us get some of these offenders off the street that are committing these violent acts, of which theft of a vehicle is often incorporated."

Throughout the state of Colorado, 38,339 vehicles were reported stolen in 2022, which equates to about 105 vehicles per day. That figure was a 3.25% increase from 2021, in which there were 37,110 reported cases of motor vehicle theft in the state.

Five particular models of cars are "at greater risk of being stolen," according to Pueblo PD's data: the Chevrolet Silverado, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Hyundai Tuscon.

Police urge residents to lock their car doors every time they leave it, park in well-lit areas, don’t keep a spare set of keys in the vehicle, remove all valuables such as purses, shopping bags and electronics, and invest in preventative measures like a vehicle alarm system, steering wheel locks, or kill switches.

Questions, comments, or story tips? Contact Justin at jreutterma@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @jayreutter1.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo sets record for auto thefts in 2022