If you report a stolen car and realize it wasn’t actually stolen, let Denver Police know

Otherwise, you could be accused of being an auto thief.
2 min. read
A Denver photo enforcement unit checks the speeds of cars barreling down Sheradan Boulevard at Westwood’s edge. Dec. 29, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver Police Department is trying to crack down on car theft.

The department says what they're doing is working. So far in 2024, there has been a 31 percent drop in auto theft from the same period last year.

But now officers are facing a new problem: People telling law enforcement their vehicles have been stolen, and then forgetting to tell the police that those same vehicles were not actually stolen, but just misplaced.

Just this week, DPD officers had two separate incidents where they encountered people driving cars that had been reported stolen, thinking they were catching thieves. In both cases, the cops were wrong. The cars had been found, but nobody had bothered to let the authorities know.

"In one instance, a family member had taken the vehicle, unbeknownst to the vehicle owner who reported it stolen," the police wrote in a statement. "The vehicle was returned to the owner by the family member, but the recovery was never shared with law enforcement, so the vehicle remained listed as stolen in the national and Colorado auto theft database."

Officers approached the car, believing the driver was an auto thief.

"Thanks to quick thinking of the officers, they learned that the driver was the owner of the vehicle," the department noted.

Police don't want to pull people over unnecessarily.

In an era when Denver Police are ticketing fewer drivers and working to reduce unnecessary pull-overs, situations like this one aren't just a distraction from their regular work but could lead to conflicts that could escalate toward violence.

"If people do not tell us the car they reported was stolen was located and we do not know, it can result in the vehicle being pulled over, avoidable police contact, and unnecessary use of officers’ time," the department wrote.

The department encourages people not to try to recover their own stolen vehicles. Instead, call 720-913-2000 to help with recovery. And call that same number again if a vehicle is found.

Residents, visitors and workers in the city should sign up for the auto-theft prevention program DenverTrack to help the city recover stolen vehicles fast.

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