Car thefts at Denver International Airport dropped in the final months of 2023 after months of attempts by the airport to rein in the crime, though the number of cars stolen from airport jumped significantly compared to 2022.
Thieves stole 11 vehicles in November, down from 61 thefts the previous month and 39 thefts in November of 2022. In December, during the busy holiday travel season, thieves stole 10 cars.
Airport leaders cheered the decline in the last two months in a news release Thursday and said the numbers were part of a downward trend in car thefts since the summer.
However, the total number of cars stolen in 2023 far surpassed the number stolen in 2022, according to Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority data provided to The Denver Post. Thieves stole 689 cars from the airport last year — a 74% increase from the 396 stolen in 2022 and a 610% increase from the 97 stolen in 2020, when airport officials first cited concerns about the trend.
Airport CEO Phil Washington attributed the reduction in thefts in recent months to increased security at the parking lots.
“One auto theft at DEN is one too many. But through a focused and coordinated effort with our partners throughout 2023 to improve and increase security measures, surveillance, and enforcement, we have finally begun to see thefts at DEN trending down,” Washington said Thursday in a news release.
To reduce car thefts, airport staff installed 11 additional security cameras in parking lots, increased the presence of security guards and installed new barriers to keep thieves from fleeing in stolen cars.
Although airport officials and law enforcement were concerned about the uptick in car thefts, the chance of theft remains statistically low. More than 14 million cars parked in the airport’s 51,000 parking spaces last year.
Car thefts surged throughout Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic before decreasing in 2023.
The spike in thefts at the airport caught the attention of two of Colorado’s congressional representatives. U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, and U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, on Wednesday introduced a bill that would allow airports like Denver’s to use federal infrastructure money to reduce car thefts.
The Securing Airport Facilities for Enhance Parking Act allows airports to apply for grants from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Infrastructure Program to pay for closed circuit camera systems, physical barriers, alarm systems and other tools to minimize theft.
“People should be able to go in and out of the airport without the fear of getting their car stolen,” Caraveo said in a news release. “Car thefts are crimes that represent a significant financial loss to these car owners and we must tackle this crime crisis immediately.”