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Pueblo Police Chief: Thefts under $2,000 cannot result in jail time

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- In 2021, theft and larceny in Pueblo is up 11%. Auto theft has almost doubled in the city, going up 46%. However, thanks to a current policy in place, some thieves can avoid jail time.

In a crime report given to Pueblo City Council in November, Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said, "the current policy of the Pueblo County Jail is to accept only those felony charges with the exception of DUI or domestic violence,"

He adds, "in the case of thefts, a person can steal up to $1,999.00 of merchandise from store or person and will not be taken to jail."

He said, "the reduction of felony charges to misdemeanor charges has a deleterious effect on the safety of the City of Pueblo and our ability to solve problems."

In the last week, residents have taken to social media to document acts of theft in Pueblo. Mykenna Kemling shared these pictures of Facebook of a white truck involved in a burglary.

"He stole $10,000 work of stuff from my boyfriend's business JD's Janitorial Service," Kemling said. She went on to say the suspect has yet to be caught.

Police told KRDO the truck is also suspected of robbing multiple businesses along Highway 50 in the last week.

Michael Coffee, a concerned Pueblo citizen, expressed his frustration with thieves not being held accountable for their crimes.

"As a regular citizen I mean what do you do to protect your property?" asked Coffee. "I mean, what do you do to protect yourself? If there are no repercussions for even stealing a car, these people are committing grand theft auto, which is a felony, but then they are getting released."

Coffee worries this could result in an uptick in vigilantes trying to take the criminal justice system into their own hands. He said that could result in jailing innocent people.

"I mean when is enough? It is up to us as voters at that point, where we are going to get angry enough and the pendulum is going to swing the other way and then people are going to be put in jail who shouldn't be put in jail, I wish we could just find some middle ground," Coffee said.

Chief Noeller spoke to KRDO Friday and made an important distinction about who should and should not be jailed for theft.

"We are not talking about people going into Safeway and stealing hamburger to feed their family. We are not talking about people stealing coats when it's 20 degrees below zero," Noeller said. "We are talking about people who are making a career out of going into stores, a Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Walgreens and making a career out of stealing things, selling them and then doing whatever it is they do with them."

Noeller admitted he's noticed the patience of people in Pueblo growing thin because of the current policy.

"Citizens, not only in our community but throughout the state are getting frustrated with our inability to put people that steal in jail and have them pay some sort of consequence. You steal $1,999.00 worth of merchandise and my office has to write you a ticket. I don't know, that doesn't seem right," Noeller said.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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