Law enforcement warns of increased car theft activity in Summit County
Local law enforcement agencies are investigating an increase in stolen vehicles in the county in recent months, and officials are asking community members to do their part to make sure they aren’t making their cars easy targets for thieves.
A pair of alleged car thieves were arrested Monday, Jan 25, after stealing a car in Silverthorne and attempting to elude Colorado State Patrol troopers until their eventual capture in Moffat County. But officials say the incident was just one in a series of recent thefts that potentially could be tied to an organized auto theft ring.
“We probably are dealing with some organized auto theft groups that are coming to our community,” Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor said. “… It seems we’re becoming less and less immune to the issues that constantly plague the Front Range. We’re obviously working collaboratively with Dillon police, the sheriff’s office and trying to be proactive. … We’ve all been talking to each other and trying to associate them with other cases in other jurisdictions, but obviously we’re seeing a trend and a pattern that says it’s increasing.”
There have been at least 10 cars stolen in Summit County this month, and Silverthorne has been hit the hardest. Minor said there have been five vehicles reported stolen in 2021, which puts the town well above pace compared to recent years. There were just 14 stolen cars in Silverthorne in 2019 and 27 in 2020.
Earlier this month, Minor said the department discovered a Subaru, which was stolen last year, dumped at the Blue River Apartments off of Adams Avenue. The suspect apparently dumped the vehicle to steal a Jeep from the parking lot, which they then dumped at Keystone before promptly stealing another car.
Two of the vehicles reported stolen in Silverthorne this year have come from hotels, according to Minor. Dillon Police Chief Cale Osborn said they are dealing with similar issues. Two cars have been stolen out of Dillon this year, but of the 20 vehicles stolen in town last year, more than half were taken in the past three months of the year.
“I would say with the higher numbers at the end of 2020, there was a large majority of them that were specifically targeted at hotels,” Osborn said.
Osborn noted that Dillon hasn’t seen a comparable increase in other property crimes, which he said may lend credence to an organized effort to steal cars in the area. Of the two cars that were stolen from Dillon this year, one had the keys inside and the other was left running and unattended to warm up — what law enforcement pros call “puffers.”
Summit County Sheriff’s Office has handled three vehicles reported stolen so far this year, according to Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, all of which were “puffers.” FitzSimons said investigators believe two of the thefts were associated with the same suspects that had stolen cars in Silverthorne.
“It’s obviously a concentrated effort,” FitzSimons said. “This is a planned event. … We’re working cooperatively and collaboratively to try and combat this issue. Obviously, we can’t get into the tactics of what we’re doing, but we’re working it, and our detectives are working together behind the scenes.”
Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman and Breckenridge Police Chief Jim Baird both said there haven’t been any stolen vehicles reported in their towns this year.
“Generally speaking, you’ll see this kind of thing closer to the highway because they’re leaving the area,” Baird said. “So because we’re a little bit removed, I think we’re somewhat shielded from that activity.”
Law enforcement leaders urged community members to take some simple precautions to lower the chances of their cars being stolen, including making sure the car is locked and that the car isn’t left running or with the keys inside unattended. Officials also suggested parking under a light when possible and not leaving valuable items inside the car.
Finally, residents are being asked to stay vigilant and to report any suspicious activity.
“What we need right now is our citizens to be engaged with us and give us any information they see or hear,” Minor said. “If they see some suspicious activity, call the nonemergency dispatch number (970-668-8600), and if they see a crime in progress, call 911. We have an inordinate amount of homes that have Ring cameras or other camera devices. If someone sees something weird, call the appropriate jurisdiction. Little things like that can crack open cases.”
Two suspects believed to be driving a car reported stolen in Summit County led the Colorado State Patrol on a more than 100-mile car chase Monday, spanning multiple jurisdictions from the town of Vail into Moffat County, where they were taken into custody.
Along the way, police allege that the suspects attempted to carjack someone near the town of Rifle and that the passenger in the stolen vehicle at one point reached out his window and fired two rounds from a handgun.
Patricia Rae Stead-Pacheco, 31, of Denver, and Jose Munoz-Jara, 19, are both in custody in the Moffat County Detention Facility.
The two face charges of menacing by use of a deadly weapon, assault in the first degree, prohibited use of a weapon, aggravated motor vehicle theft and unlawful possession of controlled substance. The driver faces an additional charge of eluding.
Judge Nicholas Catanzarite set each of their bonds at $100,000, as requested by Matthew Tjosvold, a deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, which includes Grand, Moffat and Routt counties.
It’s not yet clear if Stead-Pacheco and Munoz-Jara are suspected of any additional vehicle thefts in Summit or Eagle counties.
— Vail Daily
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