By Brian Maass

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– When thieves stole an F-250 pickup truck belonging to ICI Interior Contractors this month in Aurora, company administrators believed they had an ace up their sleeve: a sophisticated, real-time GPS system that showed exactly where the vehicle was. They figured the police would be more than happy to access the GPS system, find the truck, and arrest the thieves, but they say Aurora police declined offers to access it, and the thieves got away.

(credit: CBS)

The GPS system showed the truck stopping 17 times in a nine-hour period, with most of the stops in Aurora.

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“It was kind of mind blowing,” said Lee Webb, an administrator with the company. “I was just getting angrier and angrier… this should be the easiest thing to catch.”

ICI notified Aurora police of the stolen vehicle – and the GPS system – at about 9 a.m. on July 17. The company’s vice president and chief operating officer offered to give APD immediate access to the GPS system, so officers could apprehend the thieves and recover the truck.

But Aurora police declined the offer.

Agent Matthew Longshore with the Aurora Police Department told CBS4, “Currently, not only are we minimally staffed on patrol, but we do not have the resources to blindly chase a stolen vehicle around the city.”

But screenshots from the GPS system show the system revealed precisely where the stolen vehicle was, when it was moving, how fast it was going and when it stopped; the system even displays where the truck stops and for how long.

(credit: CBS)

Between about 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 17, the GPS system shows that most of the stops the truck made were along the Colfax Avenue corridor, sometimes for as long as half an hour.

Regardless, Longshore said, “That is just not something that our officers, who most of the time are going from call to call, are expected to do. There could be numerous privacy concerns… whether permission was given by the owner or not, if APD were accessing someone’s private GPS tracking system.”

But multiple employees at the company, including the vice president/COO, not only gave APD permission to access the GPS system, but they also provided the police agency with access information and followed it up with phone calls.

“If they pulled it up, it could have shown wherever he was at any given point,” said Kerry Foster, ICI’s controller.

Another company employee, Vice President Dave Webster, told CBS4, “I sent them access so they could watch it live; that way they could track it and apprehend it.”

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Late in the afternoon, as the truck kept moving, one company employee emailed Aurora police, writing, “Can you please help retrieve our company vehicle?”

When it became clear to company officials Aurora Police had minimal interest in locating the stolen truck, the company dispatched a tow truck to get the pickup back after it stopped for an extended period of time. An Aurora patrolman showed up when the stolen pickup was about to be towed away.

(credit: CBS)

ICI administrators say when they got the truck back, it was filled with what they suspect were stolen goods like a cellphone, a medical stethoscope, clothing, and electronics.

Webb believes all those stops in Aurora were incidents where the truck thieves stole from other vehicles.

Longshore said APD has no reports of the truck being used in other crimes. He said police told the company to track the truck through the day, call police when the truck stopped, and they would “send someone out there as soon as possible.”

Aurora is seeing a dramatic rise in stolen vehicles. For the first six months of 2021, motor vehicle thefts were up 89.5% from the same time period in 2020, from 1,407 to 2,666 in the six-month period.

That spike is more than any other major crime or property crime category.

Webb fears the tepid response from police will embolden thieves and prompt more citizens to take matters into their own hands.

“There wasn’t an urgency to pick it up until it was dumped,” Webb said.

He feels the message to criminals is they can act with “no consequences.”

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Overall, Webb says of the experience, “we were definitely frustrated.”

Brian Maass