THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL BOARD: The troubling state of Colorado’s…
Consider this observation by Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen about Colorado’s dubious distinction as the No. 1 state for auto theft:
“When I speak to community groups and I ask if they’ve had their car stolen, (or) if they know somebody who’s had their car stolen, you just see arms going up … (and people) saying, ‘Well, I’ve had my car stolen twice.’ This is not OK.”
No, it’s not. That’s why Gazette editors Vince Bzdek and Luige Del Puerto sat down the other day with Pazen in our latest Colorado Conversation, “The State of the Streets,” an hourlong discussion in which Pazen details Colorado’s most alarming crime variables.
Here are some noteworthy takeaways from this enlightening interview:
Coloradans must speak up
Pazen implores people to join neighborhood watches and to let elected officials know how crime is affecting their communities.
“An engaged community is a strong community, and a strong community is a safe community. … (Express) ‘Hey, we’re not OK with the issues we’re seeing.’ ”
Minorities, poor are hit hardest
Denver’s murder rate alone has nearly quadrupled since 2010, doubled since 2015 and even spiked 20% from 2020 to 2021 as lenient criminal-justice “reforms” have overtaken the state. Pazen was dismayed to share that 85% of murder victims in Denver are “persons of color” — African Americans, Latinos and Asians.
As Pazen said, “these are families, people, destroyed” — most recently, a 14-year-old homicide victim in Denver.
“We’re often talking about (demographic) disparities, (but) when we’re talking about homicide, when we’re talking about people’s lives, we need to dig in to figure out what’s really going on here.”
Pazen said unprecedented car-theft numbers harm the working class most because “families are losing their source of transportation.” Pazen said compounding the problem is state law that has “decategorized” stolen automobiles worth less financially, even sometimes down to a misdemeanor, versus a higher-class felony for more expensive vehicles. Does this potentially incentivize thieves to take cheaper cars when they’re looking for the anonymity Pazen said a stolen vehicle provides?
Pazen said the “missing side of the equation” is ensuring violent offenders can’t harm their own communities “time after time,” adding consequences that need to be more severe and improving parole, probation, supervision and pretrial services.
Reforms have limits
Pazen was unflinching in asserting that reforms and alternative-policing methods shouldn’t replace evidence-based solutions. Rather, they complement. He said the state must “hit the pause button” and use data to gauge what’s not working as Colorado crime compounds.
Pazen was blunt about how the “decarceration” movement has helped fuel the state’s crime problem. When you combine the repeat nature of offenders, a 50% average recidivism rate within three years and a reduction of nearly 8,000 prisoners in the state’s system since 2008, the result is the current chaos across Colorado.
As for strategies like the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, Pazen said that though it gets a lot of attention and can “distract” from crime issues, a recent Stanford study confirms STAR is not a crime-prevention or reduction strategy “in any sense of the word.”
“We’ve had STAR more than two years yet continue to see increases in crime. … It may produce better outcomes for individuals in crisis — and that should be good enough for all of us. This isn’t a panacea, ‘ throw out a bunch of STAR vans and alternative response and crime goes down.’ You (must) address the criminal behavior.”
The Denver Gazette
15 Aug 2022
THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL BOARD
Reprinted from The Denver Gazette