Motor vehicle thefts on the rise in Durango – The Durango Herald

Police chief says COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased crime in all categories

Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer said the police department is reminding residents to lock their cars and keep their keys out of reach when not in use to reduce motor vehicle thefts. As of March 4, three vehicle thefts have already taken place this month. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald file)

When you are not using your vehicle, lock it and take your keys with you. This is the message the Durango Police Department is trying to send. Vehicle thefts have been trending up since 2019, Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer said.

There were 36 vehicle thefts recorded in 2019, he said. In 2020, 54 motor vehicle thefts took place. There were 43 in 2021.

“State crime levels have increased over the past two years,” he said. “It’s not just isolated in Durango.”

Across Colorado, motor vehicle thefts increased from 22,321 to 30,942 — or 38.62 percent — from 2019 to 2020.

In the first four days of March, Brammer said three stolen vehicles had already been reported in Durango. One was an economy rental truck that was not returned as scheduled. The truck was found Thursday evening and an arrest was made, he said.

Two other vehicles were stolen from residents of the town. In each case, the keys were left inside the vehicles, which were also left unlocked.

Brammer said 85% to 90% of the 43 vehicles stolen in 2021 involved vehicles left unlocked with keys in the car. The police chief said his figures were approximations, as few people admit to leaving keys in the vehicle.

“We find the salvaged cars with the keys, so we can make that assumption,” he said.

Brammer said it is up to individual members of the community to take proactive steps to protect their personal assets.

Motor vehicle thefts — and theft of items from motor vehicles — are often crimes of opportunity, at least in Durango, he said.

People walking the streets shake car handles to see if the vehicles are unlocked, he said. If they easily manage to get into the vehicle, they may also find loose change or cash, purses, and even bicycles, in addition to other valuables that are easy prey for opportunistic thieves. .

“I guarantee you that if everyone in this community did their part, we could cut our crime rate in half, like motor vehicle theft, probably,” he said.

Brammer said the majority of stolen cars in Durango are recovered. Stolen vehicles are often taken for car rides or commandeered for use in other criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or other lesser crimes.

He said that, based on discussions with other police chiefs in the Denver metro area, Durango has it pretty easy, all things considered, when it comes to burglaries and auto thefts.

In and around the state capitol, police are seeing vehicle break-ins, the use of slim jim car door openers and even hot-wired vehicle cases where thieves strip stolen vehicles of their parts or resell them whole.

The role of COVID in crime

Brammer said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased crime levels across all categories.

He said there was a lot of hindsight needed to determine the factors caused by the pandemic.

Masks and the increased anonymity they afford have led to more brazen petty thefts, he said. He gave an example where people would walk into a convenience store, masked with their faces hidden, choose a 12-pack of beers and walk out without paying.

“We don’t know who they are, we can’t identify them,” Brammer said.

But the real kickstarter of COVID-19 is the social unrest it has caused across the country, he said.

“It created a lot of social unrest all over the country that pissed people off, basically,” he said. “With that, people started committing crimes.”

The pandemic has also led to a reduction in the prison and prison population due to the threat of the disease spreading.

He said people were going through the process of citation, arrest and imprisonment faster than the police could file their documents.

“We’ve never been able to hold people accountable,” he said.

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