COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE
Blame ‘justice reform’
for our crime wave
The hard data is in; it’s alarming and grim. The price Colorado has paid for going soft on crime is startling, as a Gazette banner headline on Thursday made clear. It’s all in a landmark study released this week by Colorado’s Common Sense Institute, which reveals:
• Violent crime in our state skyrocketed 35% from 2011 to last year — while rising only 3% nationwide. The state’s crime rate for 2021 is on track to be the highest since 1994.
• Colorado’s 2020 murder rate was 106% higher than in 2011.
• Assault was up 40% in that same time. Rape was 9% higher.
The data includes some dubious distinctions:
• Colorado is No. 1 in auto theft — the highest rate in the nation as of 2020.
• The auto theft rate soared 135% in the past decade.
• Colorado’s overall property crime rate also rose more than in any other state the past decade.
Alongside its human toll, Colorado’s crime wave — really, a tsunami — took a tremendous toll in dollars and cents. The Common Sense Institute’s research pegs it at $27 billion in both tangible and intangible costs for 2020. It averages to $4,762 a year per Coloradan — or 77% of the state’s annual budget.
To say the least, it is a wakeup call — and not just to lock your cars, secure your homes and watch your backs.
It also is a warning to our state’s elected policy makers at all levels of government to mend their ways.
First and foremost, it’s time for ruling Democrats at the legislature to toss the so-called justice reform agenda into the dumpster of discredited ideas. They must quit requiring our justice system to coddle criminals. As the research points out:
• The number of convicts behind bars at Colorado prisons dropped an astounding 23% from 2008 to this year — while the total number of crimes per year exploded by 47%.
• In Denver, the use of recognizance bonds letting criminal suspects out of jail at no cost jumped 61% over the last two years and rose even for more serious crimes.
• Meanwhile, Colorado’s rate of repeat offenders ranks among the top five in the nation.
Politicians’ attempts to lower or end cash bail; to release suspects despite mile-long rap sheets; to reclassify crimes and criminals in the name of “equity”; to remove cops from K-12 school campuses — must halt immediately. Where now implemented, they should be repealed.
Such “reforms” already were being nudged to the back burner by a few more astute Democrats who have realized the jig is up.
They know a public under siege by a festering criminal culture is running out of patience with ever-more outlandish attempts to recast criminals as victims — and to cast crime’s real victims by the wayside.
Everyone seems to know someone these days whose car has been stolen; whose home has been burglarized; who was too close for comfort to the latest incident of teen violence.
Now, the Common Sense Institute’s study — led by respected former district attorneys George Brauchler of Arapahoe County and Mitch Morrissey of Denver — is a game changer. Its numbers confirm our fears.
Justice reform? For a change, how about just plain old justice — for Colorado’s many crime victims?
Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board
Whose side is Denver’s
district attorney on?
A few days before last week’s release of a blockbuster study underscoring the epic crime wave battering our state, Denver’s top prosecutor appeared before City Council members — in defense of suspected criminals.
“… I do not believe that because we were attempting to release the jail population during COVID that we saw a big increase in people committing violent crime,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann told the council’s public safety working group last Monday.
Never mind that her own office had found about 20% of those released early to ease crowding amid COVID in fact did reoffend.
Only 11% of those released for other reasons did so.
Regarding the release of criminal suspects in general without making them post bail, she observed, “We have found that a majority of people on PR bonds do not reoffend. But there are certainly some that do, and some do in horrible ways.”
In “horrible ways” — that could have been prevented if they were still behind bars?
Then, there was this: “We’re trying to be as reasonable and responsible as we can be, but also understanding that holding someone in jail before they’ve been convicted of a crime is very disruptive to that person’s life, their family and their jobs.”
What if the suspect has a lengthy rap sheet? And what about how “disruptive” a suspect’s crimes are to the life, family and job of the victim?
Such is the wisdom of the prosecutor in chief for one of the state’s largest and most crime-afflicted judicial districts. Is it any wonder law-abiding Denverites feel under siege?
Denver’s top safety officials have said homicides and other violent crimes are spiking in part because too many violent criminals return to the streets on pretrial release, probation or parole.
Mayor Michael Hancock has said as much, too. And then there’s the stunning new crime data presented to the public Thursday by Colorado’s Common Sense Institute.
The groundbreaking study, led by respected former district attorneys George Brauchler of Arapahoe County and Mitch Morrissey of Denver found violent crime in Colorado skyrocketed 35% from 2011 to last year. (It rose only 3% nationwide.)
Our 2020 murder rate was 106% higher than in 2011. Assault was up 40% in that same time. Rape was up 9%.
Colorado leads the nation in auto theft and posted the biggest increase in property crime of any state in the past decade.
A likely reason for the surge: According to the Common Sense study, the number of convicts behind bars at Colorado prisons plummeted 23% from 2008 to this year — while total crimes per year exploded by 47%.
And on McCann’s watch in Denver, the study found, the use of recognizance bonds letting criminal suspects out of jail at no cost jumped 61% over the last two years. Even for some suspected of serious crimes.
Yet, on Monday, McCann was telling the council there are “a lot of protections in place” for the public. Her bigger concern, it seemed, was, “…We don’t have in place enough of a protection for the (suspects) right now. They’re going to be held without any opportunity of getting out.”
Evidently, she would rather give suspected criminals the benefit of the doubt — than assure the law-abiding public of a little more security. Isn’t it the defense counsel who is supposed to look out for the accused — while the DA looks out for the rest of us?
Denver Gazette editorial board