Vehicle theft on the rise |

Vehicle theft on the rise

Tim Mutrie

Car thefts have been on the rise in Aspen over the past two months, according to police. Six or eight cars have been stolen since Dec. 1, police said.

In 1998, a total of 24 car thefts were reported to police, including six in June.

“I’ve noticed an increase in the last two months,” said Leon Murray, patrol supervisor with the Aspen Police Department. “There were probably six or eight cars that were taken illegally, and in all the cases, the door was unlocked and the keys were either in it or it was running.”

Of the 24 cars stolen last year, “all but one was recovered in town [within] hours or days later,” Murray said. The other car was recovered in Grand Junction a few days after its owner notified authorities.

“We’ve actually had very few cars taken that were forcibly entered,” Murray said. “And in none of these cases could we establish that the suspects had gone out that night to steal a car.”

In one such instance that occurred in December, an idling car was stolen from in front of a bar, Murray said.

Twenty-one minutes after the theft was reported, the suspect found himself looking down the barrels of a few guns held by Aspen police officers, which is standard operating procedure, Murray said.

Anytime police receive a call that a car has been stolen, it’s treated as a felony, he explained. “As many officers as possible will respond with their guns drawn,” Murray said. “It’s a highly stressful situation.”

In the December incident, the man who was arrested told police that “he was too drunk and too cold to walk home,” Murray said. So instead he hopped into the idling car, and wound up in a good deal of trouble.

Murray offers some simple advice to people who want to avoid being victims of car theft.

“If you like it, you lock it,” he said. The same rule applies to other valuables that are often the target of opportunity crimes, like skis, bikes and homes.

“It’s something that’s real simple, but it can prevent some pretty huge consequences,” Murray said. Besides, as Murray pointed out, “Insurance companies don’t like to pay claims when they read the police report that says the keys were in the vehicle.”

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