012023-dg-editorial-1

Auto thefts in Colorado have increased 88% since 2017, according to a report released by the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority.

Grand Theft Auto — "GTA" to gamers — is an epic video game series. But it’s no game in Colorado. For the second year running, our state bears the dubious distinction of ranking first in the country for auto theft.

And Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis — standard bearer for a party that has ushered in a wave of soft-on-crime justice “reforms” in the past several years — appears to have had enough. In his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature earlier this week, the governor called on lawmakers to take action on the issue.

"This is an issue that has affected some of you in this room and so many of our fellow Coloradans, and I look forward to working with all of you to find an effective solution," he said.

While that may seem like a “no duh” to rank-and-file Coloradans — plenty of whom have indeed been “affected,” as Polis put it, by the state’s epidemic of stolen vehicles — the fact the governor would buttonhole lawmakers is no small matter. After all, it was the governor who had a hand, literally, in liberalizing state law on auto theft in the first place.

As our news affiliate Colorado Politics noted Thursday, Polis’ plea to the legislature came less than two years after he signed legislation lowering the penalty for some auto theft-related offenses. The 2021 legislation overhauled Colorado's misdemeanor laws and included provisions making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to steal a car if its value is less than $2,000.

The governor didn’t mention that part in his speech this week, of course, but his stance sure came across as an about-face. We’ll gladly take it. As will the general public, which continues to be buffeted by a historic crime wave.

Polis said in his speech he has called on the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to "get tough on auto theft sentencing" and that the commission’s sentencing task force "moved that recommendation forward overwhelmingly.”

"I look forward to seeing the General Assembly take up this important recommendation," he told lawmakers.

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The proposal’s specifics remain to be seen, and there could turn out to be a lot of wiggle room between what the governor now says he wants, and what he will get from his fellow Democrats who control the legislature.

Many of those legislative Democrats won’t be happy about backsliding from their curious obsession to free ever more of Colorado’s criminal element.

The so-called justice reform movement has cost Colorado dearly over the past several years. From decriminalizing possession of a host of hard drugs, including deadly fentanyl, to allowing a lot of convicted felons to possess firearms once they’re back on the streets, legislative Democrats have sown what beleaguered, law-abiding Coloradans are now forced to reap.

One particularly egregious, and offensive, feature of the 2021 law was its watered-down penalty based on a vehicle’s market value. It essentially tells the worker who owns an early-2000s beater of a pickup that his loss is less important than that of someone who can afford to drive a Porsche.

In reality, it’s probably the other way around; the owner of the stolen pickup likely cannot afford another vehicle.

To his credit, Polis is on the record opposing such upside-down lawmaking, and he says he wants it changed. To his further credit, he appears primed, for now, at least, to press the issue.

But he can’t introduce bills. Only lawmakers can do that. We’ll see what they come up with.

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