Shootings are becoming so common in Colorado people barely notice the violence. Even when someone dies.
A Gazette headline read “Shooting leaves 1 dead, 2 injured at southeast Colorado Springs nightclub early Saturday”.
The incident happened about 4:30 a.m. Dec. 17. Three people were shot. One, 42-year-old security guard Elijah Beatty, was dead when the police arrived.
That gun-related death was Colorado Springs 53rd homicide in 2022. A new record. It was part of a rising trend of growing violence across the state. Yet there was little news coverage.
Even mass shootings are not receiving attention. Colorado Public Radio told us in December, “Most of those shootings in Colorado this year generated little attention. Full details of each have not yet been released but they occurred in Denver, Colorado Springs and Aurora.”
The widely circulated FBI’s annual crime statistics report showed violent crime up in Colorado this year. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen recently said “Colorado, historically, has been a remarkably safe state, well below the national averages … we can’t say that anymore.” What an understatement about the increase in Colorado violence.
George Brauchler (a Republican), a former Colorado attorney general co-wrote a new report, with Mitch Morrissey (a Democrat), the former Denver DA. The report is titled “The Colorado Crime Wave: An Economic Analysis of Crime and the Need for Data Driven Solutions,”
The publication bluntly says, “As a result of multiple reforms, the trends across bond practices, parole rates, and incarceration levels, all point to a system tipping further away from accountability.”
The Colorado justice system used to place its efforts on getting criminals off the streets — by locking them up. We knew however that merely locking people up did not address the root causes of violent crime.
So, we changed our approach to these issues. We “reformed” the bond system making it easier to get a personal recognizance bond instead of paying bails bondsmen.
Then we changed how we implemented parole, also making it easier to complete requirements. Then as a state we pushed to lower incarceration levels by releasing prisoners early. Finally, we pushed lower charges, more lenient sentencing in court and less supervision upon release.
To address system failures, we made the system more “fair” for those who enter it. But at what cost?
The report shows us Colorado’s recidivism rate has reached the top-5 in the nation. Fifty percent across the board.
This trend shows itself in n metropolitan areas across the state.
Former Denver District Attorney Morissey has stated, “What we’re seeing are people committing violent crimes and repeat offenders being arrested then let out the next day. These criminals will appear on Zoom or in court, but what they’re doing is committing crimes while out on bond.”
During the political season of 2022, the startling rise in Colorado violent crime rates also prompted Gov. Jared Polis to promise “…to make Colorado one of the 10 safest states in the nation. We are currently 21st in violent crime. That’s not good enough for the residents of Colorado ….”
Coloradans need this promise kept. The cost of violent crime — $4,762 per Coloradan, per year is too high.
We must change parole and incarceration levels to tip our system back towards accountability. Laws that prevent accountability must be replaced.
But those changes will not be enough. To help Polis keep his promise to make Colorado safe again, both lawmakers and law enforcement must also turn their eyes to root causes of crime. According to the Police Executive Research Forum the top influences on rising crime include mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor decision-making.
States that have lower recidivism have programs in jail or prison with emphasis on education and mental health and substance abuse treatment. Most also require that sentences be served at least 85% before release.
If we make these changes then – the shootings and other acts of violence affecting our state will decrease. And shootings in Colorado will be go back to being newsworthy because they will be unusual again.
Rachel Stovall is an event manager, entertainer and community advocate.