It’s not just our state’s metro areas that are reeling from rising crime. Far from the Front Range, small-town Coloradans, as well, are fed up with the state-sanctioned enablement of tried-and-true criminals.
In southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley, residents of Alamosa are sharing heart-wrenching stories that amount to a testimonial of the real-world implications of going soft on crime. Sadly, it’s taking place in an area long struggling with drug-related despair.
Their publicly elected prosecutor, District Attorney Alonzo Payne, refuses to confront the area’s drug-and-crime epidemic, which parallels the state’s.
The top talk up and down Alamosa’s Main Street this St. Patrick’s Day, from St. Ives Pub & Eatery to Calvillo’s Mexican Restaurant, isn’t about the Valley’s water debate. It’s about the push from the police chief and people to recall Payne.
Payne is a former public defender who proudly ran — winning by a 62% margin in the Democratic primary — on a Bernie Sanders-endorsed platform to “reduce incarceration and stop the criminalization of poverty in southern Colorado.” The DA, who wouldn’t comment to The Gazette, has been nicknamed “Let ‘em Go Alonzo” by the people because not one of more than 40 narcotics cases local police shared in nine months went to trial.
As in the rest of our crime-hobbled country, everyday Alamosans have had a cold, hard wake-up call now that they see what Payne’s abomination of a prosecutorial approach means for them.
The near-weekly tales of drugs and crime swallowing their hometown whole have become so bad that even state Attorney General Phil Weiser, a fellow Democrat, acknowledged the concerns are “troubling.”
As reported the other day by The Gazette, Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks lambasted Payne for his disregard for communication with fellow local elected officials and for “sweetheart deals” to criminals, saying he’s “made it abundantly clear that the philosophical platform he ran on applies to all levels of crimes, and he doesn’t believe jail is productive.”
Alamosans are so enraged they want to remove Payne by changing the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, which would allow up to $10,000 of public funds toward a recall — an unprecedented move in the sprawling, six-county 12th Judicial District.
With Alamosans logically concluding their DA values criminals over victims — a worry for many Coloradans amid our crime surge in recent years — the Alamosa City Council recently listened to tearful testimonials from residents.
The stories were about how Payne’s propensity to scale back serious offenses to little or no jail time has led to a scary reality for a small town. It feels unrepresentative of a community where everybody seemingly knows everybody.
“I get phone calls from people with terror in their voice because the person standing in line next to them at the grocery store is the person who victimized them,” Mayor Ty Coleman told The Gazette. “They feel there’s no hope. They feel the system is broken.”
Indeed, in Alamosa — and across much of the state.
The Gazette editorial board
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