Summertime scorching temperatures are helping increase crime rates across the state as drivers look for ways to cool off. As you leave your windows rolled down or your air conditioning running, thieves are taking advantage.
"In 2011, we actually saw a slight increase in the number of auto thefts compared to the previous year," Kate Porras with the Grand Junction Police Department said.
A total of 154 cars were reported stolen in the city in 2011 which equaled about a $1 million loss for victims. The state as a whole logged 9,311 auto thefts totaling more than $57.3 million in losses.
"It's not our biggest problem, but it's one that we feel we need to address," Porras said.
Local authorities hope education will be their best tool. The Grand Junction Police Dept, Mesa County Sheriff's Office, Fruita Police Dept, Colorado State Patrol and the Mesa County District Attorney's Office all make up the Western Colorado Auto Theft Task Force (WCATT).
As a member of the Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CAAT) prevention group, WCATT has been receiving grant money for the past three years.
This season they are warning drivers of what to expect. "Rolled down windows and unlocked cars are the easiest targets for thieves," Porras said. "Last year, 42 of the 154 cases of auto theft in the city were because people left the keys in their car."
It may sound like common sense to lock your doors, keep the windows up and keep your keys with you, but dozens continue to be victimized in those scenarios each year.
"In the summer, it's windows and locks we're worried about whereas we're concerned people will leave their cars running in the winter," Porras described. "So, there's really not a set time of the year when this happens."
To see just how careful Grand Junction residents are, we stopped by a parking lot directly across the street from the police station.
On this 95 degree day, we found six of the 13 cars in the parking lot with their windows at least cracked while three had the windows rolled all the way down. No one was inside any of these vehicles.
"I don't want it to be hot when I get out [of the building]," Jessica Matthews said. She had left all four of her SUV's windows all the way down.
"There are some idiots out here and I guess I'm one of them today," she joked. Just five minutes later, with our cameras rolling, she retrieved her keys and rolled her windows back up.
This year's statewide campaign called "Lockdown - Coloradans Against Auto Theft" kicked off Tuesday at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre on the Front Range. Officials selected a popular summer venue because that is where most stolen cars are reported.
Officials with the campaign say 70% of all auto thefts in Colorado happen in the Denver area and usually peak during July and August.
To minimize your risk of being victimized, officials say you should lock your doors, roll up your windows, think twice about where you park, keep valuables out of the car, invest in an anti-theft device and never leave your keys inside an unattended vehicle.