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As Car Thefts Rise, CU Anschutz Police Department and Campus Partners Provide Safety Tips, Debut New Program

Campus police share five things you need to know, including most commonly stolen vehicles and parking lots with highest frequency

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Written by Staff on December 14, 2022
What You Need To Know

After more than 100 reports of stolen vehicles on campus this year, Campus Police and hospital partners share details about the thefts, tips on how to stay safe and information about programs available to faculty, staff, students and hospital employees aimed at ensuring safety. 

Colorado leads the nation in auto theft, and, unfortunately, Denver and Aurora are two of the prime targets for thieves. On campus thus far in 2022, there have been 106 recorded reports of stolen vehicles and 39 attempted auto thefts, more than double from last year. The rise was especially troubling during November, when criminals stole or attempted to steal 23 vehicles.

While CU Anschutz, overall, is a safe campus with very few crimes against people, motor vehicle theft is the most frequent crime. Campus hospital partners and the CU Anschutz Police Department, whose officers provide 24/7 patrol and many other services, want to create awareness to this problem and share new strategies to help deter this crime.

Here are important things you should know:

  • Specific vehicle targets: Three makes of vehicles (Kia, Hyundai and Chevrolet) comprise 77 percent of campus auto thefts. The top models stolen are Kia Optima, Kia Sorento, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Elantra, and pre-2015 models of Chevrolet Tahoe and Silverado. Thieves target these vehicles because some of their ignitions lack immobilizer systems that are more common with newer models. Vehicles with chip keys (which communicate with another chip in the ignition switch) and push-button starters are much more difficult to steal.

  • Hospital parking lots: More than 90 percent of the campus’ auto thefts this year have occurred in parking lots near Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. The highest frequencies of those thefts have occurred in CHC Lot 1 and UCH Lots 4, 6 and 7. “Unfortunately, thieves can steal vehicles in a matter of just a few minutes,” said CU Anschutz Police Chief Randy Repola. “Having nearby access to Colfax Avenue and Interstate 225 also allows them to get away quickly from the hospital lots.”

Security services available:

  • The SafeZone app allows you to quickly share your location and details with CU Anschutz Police so they can provide prompt assistance. The app also has a timer feature that can be used, for example, when walking to your car. You set a specific countdown timer and if you fail to extend or cancel it, an alert with location info is sent to university police. A virtual SafeZone training is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Furthermore, CU Anschutz Police offers free security escorts to your vehicle during hours of darkness. UCHealth security teams also offer free security escorts to staff and providers who are walking to or from their vehicles.

  • The CU Police Department is partnering with Children’s Hospital Colorado to extend the coverage of the SafeZone app to include the Children’s Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (AMC). We encourage all team members to sign up for this service as soon as possible. In an emergency, this mobile app allows you to request assistance from the police (similar to calling 911), and if you are on the AMC campus, quickly share your location and details with CU Anschutz Police so they can provide prompt assistance. 

  • UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) now has 75 cameras focused on its parking lots and garages. UCH has increased security rounding, both on-foot and in vehicles, in their lots. The security vehicles and officers have lights or brightly colored uniforms to help them be more noticeable. UCH is using license plate recognition (LPR) technology to track vehicles on campus, and daily safety huddles are discussing safety and sharing issues. UCH is also planning to bring new, mobile camera units to their surface lots to help deter thefts and increase safety.

  • License plate reader program: The CU Anschutz Police Department has also contracted with a license plate reader vendor, with installation planned for January. Hundreds of LPRs exist throughout the metro region, providing another tool for law enforcement to reduce auto theft. Cameras will be installed at all entrances to campus to identify license plates of stolen vehicles and/or those associated with outstanding criminal warrants. When the camera sees a match, it sends an immediate notice to CU Anschutz Police’s dispatch center, so officers can respond to the area.

“In most cases, thieves are coming to campus in a vehicle that’s already been reported as stolen,” Repola said. “When that occurs, we receive an instant notification that gives our officers a better chance at interceding and arresting these criminals.” Repola also noted that license plate data is securely stored for 30 days only used by CU Anschutz Police in cases where the vehicle is stolen or associated with a warrant.

Prevention tips:

  • Call police at (303) 724-4444 if you see suspicious activity.
  • Never leave your car running and unattended.
  • Do not leave keys in the ignition or anywhere inside the vehicle.
  • Make sure your valuables are out of sight.  Never leave valuables on your seat, dashboard or floor.
  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Consider using a high-quality steering wheel locking device, especially if you own a Kia, Hyundai or Chevrolet model that is frequently stolen.
  • Anyone who works at UCH is encouraged to save their security number, (720) 848-7777, in their phone’s contacts. This number can be used to report suspicious activity or behavior or request a security escort.

“Preventing and deterring motor vehicle theft will remain our department’s top enforcement priority,” Chief Repola said. “We are hopeful that our increased patrols and new license plate reader program will help reduce this unfortunate trend. We need your help, too. Please use the above prevention tips and do not hesitate to call us if you witness a car theft or see anything else suspicious.”