LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Auto theft is skyrocketing. In the Denver metro area, 90 vehicles have been reported stolen in the past 24 hours.

The frequency of theft is bad enough, but police say the vehicles are being used to commit other crimes, often involving violence.

(credit: CBS)

For a while Thursday morning, Highway 85 could have been renamed the “Santa Fe Speedway.” A stolen pickup truck taken from Castle Rock was spotted, but took off when Douglas County deputies tried to stop it.

Finally at Mineral and Santa Fe, deputies used stop sticks to halt the truck. The driver ran, but was struck by a deputy’s car. Two other passengers in the truck were taken into custody.

Authorities believe that auto theft has become much more dangerous.

“We are having criminals in a stolen vehicle in our community without any regard for anyone else’s safety,” said Detective David Snelling of the Arvada Police Department.

(credit: Colorado State Patrol)

Snelling referred to a recent incident in which an eight-year-old girl was struck and injured by a stolen car on Lowell Boulevard. The suspect continued driving the vehicle after Arvada police had stopped their pursuit. That’s when the child was struck.

“This is a person who has no regard for community, for anyone’s safety and only caring for themself in a stolen car.”

It was a stolen car involved in an incident on Monday, in which the driver was fleeing a state trooper. The car was pinned in near the Douglas-El Paso county line and the suspect pointed a gun at the trooper.

(credit: CBS)

Last Sunday in Westminster, a person in a stolen vehicle shot at an officer. That officer returned fire, striking and killing the man.

Rick Sallinger