It is no longer possible, for any political subset, to deny the extent and seriousness of the crime problem in Colorado. Data from multiple sources, national and local, point inescapably to the skyward trajectory of criminal activity in the state, granting empirical illumination to a very human issue.

The Common Sense Institute recently released a study that adds to this mountain of data, offering an analysis from the angle of economic impacts. The study’s principal authors, George Brauchler and Mitch Morrissey, are particularly well-suited to comment on criminal matters, having dedicated their professional lives to quarterbacking society’s response to them as district attorneys. The partnership with CSI’s resources has resulted in a paper that is as edifying as it is bleak.

The figures are riveting. Those concerning the escalating crime rate are rather depressing, if not especially surprising. In September, I wrote of the FBI’s 2020 crime data, which quantified that crime was up in the country, more so in Colorado. CSI’s report puts some meat on that skeleton; for instance, that the state’s average monthly crime rate in 2021 is 28% higher than it was a decade ago, 15% higher than in 2019.

The study zeroes in on the steady rise in crime over the period between 2011 and 2020. Among the findings: Colorado experienced the highest increase in property crime in the U.S. over the past decade; the violent crime rate was 35% higher in 2020 than 2011, while it rose nationwide only 3%; the murder rate in Colorado was 106% higher in 2020, rape 9% higher and assault 40%.

Sobering figures, but the report’s most salient ones are those that quantify the cost. The cost of crime in Colorado in 2020, as calculated by the authors, was more than $27 billion, more than three quarters of the state’s annual $35 billion budget. These costs are separated into the tangible and the intangible. The tangible factors are those most directly measurable — medical bills, property damage, the public expense of policing, prosecuting, defending, incarcerating perpetrators, administering the justice system and the costs associated with mental health and loss of productivity to victims. These costs come out to $8.5 billion, a figure the report places into perspective by comparing it to the $6.77 billion representing combined market value of Denver’s pro sports teams.

The other part of the equation is the intangible costs — pain and suffering of the victims, decrease in quality of life, which the report values at $19 billion. The analytical gurus at CSI are especially good at this, so one is reluctant to second-guess their formulations; but it brings to mind stories like that in the early 1970s in New York, the account of the elderly husband and wife who, after twice experiencing their apartment being broken into, and being robbed and tortured by their assailants, decided life in the Big Apple was not worth it and so divested their life savings to their favorite charity, left an explanatory note and hanged themselves.

There is much more in the report, which is well worth the read, including a section examining the spate of regrettable criminal justice reforms at all levels, of which the causal, or at least contributory, relationship to the current increase in crime levels is difficult to dismiss.

Policy alone cannot be blamed in isolation — a general diminution of societal morality, especially as countenanced by the courts and judges, must surely play a role. As the late Roger Scruton wrote, “as moral feeling recedes, so too does the desire to convict or subject to punishment.” But the reforms spurred by this moral indifference are leading us back to a dark place where an octogenarian couple may again feel compelled to enter a suicide pact in order to avoid victimization. Reforms, that is, which make a mockery of the very idea of a free society.

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.