BATTLE Task Force’s Collaborative Efforts Lead to Significant Drop in Auto Theft Cases in Colorado

GREELEY, Colo. — A statewide task force in Colorado, known as BATTLE, has been successful in combating the rise of motor vehicle theft in the region. BATTLE, which stands for Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement, was established in 2013 to streamline operations and funding among various law enforcement agencies. The collaborative nature of BATTLE has contributed significantly to its success, according to Cale Gould, program assistant of the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority (CATPA). CATPA, created in 2003, provides grants to state patrol-led programs like BATTLE. The task force fosters communication between departments targeting the same group of car thieves, who often operate across jurisdictions.

The BATTLE North team operates in Weld, Larimer, and Boulder counties and includes officers from major departments in the region. However, some smaller departments are unable to participate due to staffing limitations. BATTLE is an overtime-driven task force, meaning officers are not assigned full-time but join operations as needed.

After experiencing a steady increase for five consecutive years, auto theft cases in Colorado saw a drastic drop in 2023. In 2022, 41,520 cars were reported stolen, but that number decreased to 32,875 in 2023 — a nearly 21% decrease. CATPA attributed this decline to a combination of factors, including the implementation of two senate bills. These bills categorized motor vehicle theft and imposed stricter penalties while also granting CATPA $5 million to support its programming and assist victims of auto theft.

In September 2022, Weld County indicted several members of a Hyundai and Kia theft ring, which contributed to the decrease in auto theft. The launch of a strategic plan by law enforcement in January 2023 also helped reduce motor vehicle theft in high-risk areas such as Greeley. BATTLE’s efforts were also crucial in curbing auto theft in northern Colorado. Grant Yount, an officer in the region, praised the collective efforts of the BATTLE team for the significant decrease in auto thefts.

CATPA emphasized the role of owner apathy in motor vehicle thefts, with 30-50% of cases attributed to negligence on the part of vehicle owners. Yount concurred, stating that most thefts in northern Colorado were crimes of opportunity, often resulting from unlocked cars or leaving keys in the ignition. Additionally, certain models, particularly Hyundai and Kia vehicles, accounted for a significant proportion of reported thefts due to electronic vulnerabilities in their entry and ignition systems.

Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 and F-250 were also among the most stolen models in the region. CATPA urged owners of these vehicles, especially those in high-risk areas, to take additional precautions such as installing steering wheel locks. In fact, CATPA offered free steering wheel locks to owners of Kia and Hyundai vehicles as a preventive measure.

While the recovery rate for stolen vehicles in Colorado is well above the national average of 56%, most vehicles are often found in unfavorable conditions. Drug involvement is prevalent in auto theft cases, leading to further damage to the stolen vehicles. Moreover, stolen vehicles are frequently connected to other crimes, making them tools for criminals rather than being stolen solely for their value.

The economic impact of auto theft extends beyond the immediate loss of the stolen vehicle. Businesses suffer from tool thefts, affecting their ability to work. To address the needs of auto theft victims, CATPA launched a program offering assistance with various costs incurred after a vehicle theft, such as towing fees, repairs, and temporary transportation.

Overall, the collaboration among law enforcement agencies, the implementation of legislative measures, and public awareness initiatives have effectively contributed to the decline in auto theft rates in Colorado. However, vigilance and preventive measures remain crucial in deterring future incidents and protecting vehicle owners from becoming victims of auto theft.