In this file photo, Denver Police Department officers head out to their patrol car after role call for the swing shift.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver is dealing with double-digit increases in car thefts and meth arrests — and experts say the two are linked.

According to Denver Police Department data, in 2017 there were 5,371 car thefts, up 13 percent over 2016. Methamphetamine arrests are up 31 percent in 2017, with police reporting 1,171 possession offenses in the Mile High City.

These crime statistics are for the city of Denver, but the problem stretches across the Front Range. Pueblo had the second most car thefts per person in the U.S. in a recent national insurance report.

Carole Walker, of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, says older model cars especially are tempting targets.

“They're using them to sell to trade in for drugs,” Walker says. “Those are all trends that we're seeing, and unfortunately that drug crime, that meth use, is one of the number one things that we're hearing from law enforcement that's pushing our trend of car theft.”

Cops are putting the resources toward the problem, Walker says, but “it's a societal problem, especially with our drug use and increases we're seeing there, and auto thefts so closely associated with that.”

If thefts are an effort to feed a habit, that may also explain the rise in thefts from inside of cars, like iPhones or wallets left in vehicles. There were 5,504 thefts from vehicles reported by Denver Police, a 15 percent rise over the previous year.