Boulder police officials on Thursday discussed the growing number of vehicle and bicycle thefts not just in the city but throughout the nation and the steps residents can take to protect themselves from the crimes.
During the Boulder Police Department’s town hall, Detective Sgt. Brannon Winn told listeners who tuned in virtually that vehicle thefts are up 60% across the metropolitan area.
He said the vehicles that are heavily targeted include older Hyundais, which are easy prey because they are not difficult to steal, and pickup.
“It’s not that (pickup are) so much easier to steal but they’re in high demand for a variety reasons,” Winn said. “I think the biggest reason pickups are being targeted now is that most of our steals are now being used in commission of other crimes like bike theft, and they’re easy to load — they can throw things in the back of pickup trucks.”
While investigating the crimes, Winn said they have found people generally like to steal vehicles in parking garages.
“They like those areas because they’re hidden from general public view, and they have time to do what they need to do and get in and get out,” he said.
Winn said the Boulder Police Department is part of the group Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement, which is a task force composed of law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The organization allows police to work together to try to deter vehicle theft, he said.
He said the police department recently completed an operation with BATTLE.
“I think we were one of the first agencies to try and pull something like this together,” Winn said. “We wound up with about 20 officers from various different agencies that we brought into the city for about a 12-hour period to try and identify stolen cars and recover them, process them, identify auto thieves and arrest them. We wound up making a number of recoveries.”
Winn added that Boulder police are recovering about 80% of vehicles that have been stolen.
“The biggest thing really is the simplest thing: by hardening the target, by not leaving your keys in the car, by parking in a lit place and locking your car,” he said.
The other issue of interest Thursday night was the burgeoning number of stolen bikes in Boulder.
Mitch Trujillo, community service officer in Boulder, said bike theft is a nationwide problem because bike owners are still not properly locking their bikes or are leaving their garage doors open.
“Less than 1% of the bikes found during camp cleanups are reported stolen or registered,” he said.
Trujillo said Boulder police encourage people to use Bike Index. The program allows bike owners to register their bikes on the site with its serial number and other information. If the bike were to go missing or be stolen, they can log onto their Bike Index account to report it.
Trujillo said people can also get a QR code sticker from Bike Index that can be placed in an inconspicuous place on the bike.
“Anybody can scan that code, and they can determine what the ownership status is,” he said. “If I’m walking down the street and I happen to see that maybe the bike looks just a little suspicious, maybe it’s abandoned, maybe it’s gathering dirt, you want to scan the code, (and) it’s going to tell you whether or not it’s been reported stolen.”
Before closing out the night, residents asked for an update from Chief Maris Herold regarding the police department’s status on recruiting and hiring new officers.
As of right now, the department is down more than 30 officers, she said. In order to replace those who have left, Herold said it will be a grassroots effort, involving community support.
“I am working with state legislators (and) even speaking to the governor about these issues (and) anybody that will listen because if we continue to lose people at the pace we are at now, we will be in a crisis situation,” she said.