Brauchler: The crime wave in Colorado has been building…
A mere ten weeks ago, I wrote in these pages of a coming crime wave. The numbers are in for the first half of 2020. I confess that I underestimated the speed and intensity of that wave, and where it would strike. It is bad, but not equally bad across Colorado.
The reasons are several, but what has changed since then, and is cause for great concern, are the ramifications from the perceived attack on the law enforcement officers we need to protect us from this surging violence. Because we lack the courage and common sense to make the changes necessary to stem the rising tide of crime, things are likely going to get worse.
Denver is on pace to have its most murderous year in a decade, according to The Denver Post. Aurora too. My office covers approximately 88% of the population of Aurora. As compared to the first six months of 2019, there has been a 400% increase in “filed” murder cases, in my district attorney’s office, which do not include unsolved murders. The rest of Arapahoe County has seen a 60% reduction. Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln have none. Aurora’s filed attempted murders have grown by 20%. Arapahoe’s by 9. Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln have seen a combined 2 cases.
Gang violence is resurgent. Agencies are so worried about liability in this environment; they have heavily curtailed proactive law enforcement. Arrest warrants, even for gang members on gun charges, go un-executed. Law enforcement is on its heels. We have spent years watering down our bail and juvenile justice laws to the point that recalcitrant offenders remain on our streets.
There are concerning trends with victims. Four of Aurora’s murders and twelve attempted murders have occurred since the killing of George Floyd. Nearly 75% of those victims are black.
Aggravated robbery (with weapons) is down across Arapahoe, but up in Aurora. Home burglaries are up 18% in Arapahoe and 61% in Aurora. Domestic Violence, both misdemeanors and felonies, have grown by double digits across Arapahoe.
From January to June 2020, motor vehicle thefts are up nearly 60% in the metro area — 1579 vehicles were stolen in June alone. WTW? Comparing April to June this year to last, car thefts are up 55% to 72% across the entire metro area, except in Denver. Denver, who uniquely continues to jail car thieves despite concerns about the coronavirus in jails, has seen only a 9% increase. There is an obvious lesson there. Anecdotally, officers hear from car thieves they apprehend, some repeatedly, that they know they are going to be let go for a property crimes, so, why stop?
The reasons for this unforgiving and unsustainable trend include the devastation of the job market from the government-imposed shutdown, the seasonal uptick in crime during warmer weather put on steroids after months of house-arrest lite, and the increasingly permissive laws and rules seeking to get offenders back onto our streets as quickly as possible. But, there is more.
Since my column, we have witnessed in Denver and Aurora considerable amounts of unchecked lawlessness. Yes, of course, the vast majority of protesters exercising their First Amendment rights were peaceful. But you saw what I saw. Fire after fire, private and public property defaced and permanently damaged, and monuments destroyed, all with seeming impunity.
Our Capitol still bears the same sickening months-old graffiti. There is no sense of urgency in either fixing what has been broken, or holding those accountable who broke our laws and defiled public property. That sheepishness, that willingness to be cowed by the figurative mob amidst the worry about political backlash and being “canceled” is noticed by criminals too. They see apathy. They see no consequences.
Name the public officials who have had the temerity to forcefully and repeatedly condemn the criminals and their crimes. For the handful who have commented at all, they have provided lip service, reserving their harshest criticisms for … law enforcement.
We are entering an Atlas Shrugged period in law enforcement. We will see the exodus of experienced, good officers, the ones who we want to train the next generation of officers. There have been tacit and unchecked denunciations of an entire profession of officers as overt or subconscious racists incapable of acting for the greater good. We have rushed to pass a law, the tenor of the first draft of which was “we don’t like you or trust you.” We have told officers and recruits alike that any use of force under any circumstances can now result in lawsuits and administrative actions that may cost them their jobs, reputations, retirements, and savings. Police are being kicked out of schools in Denver, because, we are told, they represent more of a risk to the students, than their absence. How will that generation view police in the future?
In Aurora, there were gas cans and homemade weapons brought with the intention to burn a police station down. Where is the outrage? Where is the public condemnation by Aurora City Council? Where are the arrests? Instead, there are discussions of defunding them.
Oh yeah, we still expect them to put their lives at risk to protect us from the evil that remains out there. Who wants that job?
We are entering a troubling time like no other in my memory. A crime wave is cresting over us, while we defund and demoralize our lifeguards. Hold your breath, this could get rough.
George H. Brauchler is the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.