Jimmy’s Colorado Politics Column | Metro crime soars — and here’s why

Written by on December 1, 2020

Being the victim of three automobile crimes in six months, I guess you could say I have bad 2020 Carma.  Or, Denver-metro crime is out of control. 

It was a bright and sunny Thursday in June 2020.  I was running a little behind that morning, getting ready to leave for a webshow interview.  But when I walked outside, I didn’t see my car.  I wandered around, frantically pressing the lock button with the hope that I just forgot where I left it.  Alas, my car was nowhere to be found.  It became part of the 53.3% increase in auto thefts in Aurora since January

Three weeks later, police recovered it in Hudson.  Eventually, my insurance company finally totaled it after reviewing the damage. Three nights later, my car was stolen again from the autobody shop’s lot. The thieves drove the car straight through the gate and it was gone.

I put insurance money toward a down payment on a new vehicle lease.  Lo and behold, three months later — and just two weeks ago — a vandal threw a rock at my new car’s window, destroying it while I was diligently working on my laptop inside a donut shop in Aurora.  (Aside: Due to my insurance deductible, I had to pay $270 for repairs.)

He immediately busted another car’s window and did the same to a business around the corner.  Prior to this vandalism incident, and his subsequent arrest, he had been arrested just a few days before — for the second time — but was let free because of COVID-19 jail limits.  Meaning, this was his third arrest in November. 

To summarize, I’ve been the victim of two auto thefts and one case of automobile vandalism.  And by no means am I the only such victim to property crime.  Auto thefts, vandalism and other property crimes have been skyrocketing in DenverAurora and elsewhere, even before the pandemic and the mass protests of the summer.  Violent crime is also up dramatically.  Unfortunately, police officers’ hands have been tied thanks to legal changes and jail limitations.

There are three main impediments to law enforcement that exacerbate these problems and must be addressed.

COVID Jail Limits: According to the police officers and sergeant I spoke with, due to COVID-19, a crime must be valued at $10,000 or reach a felony for a bond to hold a suspect.  Otherwise, police can’t hold them.  This emboldens criminals to be more brazen.  As I’ve written before about violent protests, when there are little or no consequences for actual crimes, criminal activity will increase.  Hence, the rock thrower is arrested multiple times.  One officer told me about a suspect who literally shouted, waving his arms, “COVID! COVID! You can’t do anything!”  The bad guys know there are few consequences.

SB-217 and Qualified Immunity: Earlier this year, Gov. Polis signed SB20-217.  This legislation went much further than merely stripping away a legal safeguard known as “qualified immunity” from trial costs. 

As Aurora City Councilman-at-Large David Gruber explained, “If an officer is involved in a situation where the (suspect believes) their constitutional rights are violated, that suspect can get a lawyer and sue the officer. (Under Colorado’s SB-217), a police officer is not able to be represented by the city.  So, the police officer, say Officer Jones, is now being sued as Mr. Jones, and Mr. Jones is liable for up to the first $25,000 of the lawsuit.”

Most officers cannot afford this, Gruber continued, which may make an officer second-guess himself in a life-threatening situation.  He also noted it’s contributed to nearly 80 officers leaving the Aurora PD. 

Anti-LEO Politicians: At the state and especially local levels, politicians who are explicitly anti-law enforcement have gained power and influence.  In Aurora, City Councilmembers Juan Marcano (my district representative on council) and Alison Coombs are outspoken socialists who favor the extreme, anti-police “8 to Abolition” movement.  In Denver, Councilwoman Candi Cdebaca and DPS Board member Tay Anderson hold similar views and great influence.  Not only are these elected officials constantly berating law enforcement, but they amplify an already hostile environment rather than genuinely addressing what are often legitimate concerns.  The rise in crime is in part their fault. 

I agree with law enforcement critics that qualified immunity is too broad and must be reined in.  I agree that some police department policies and standards must be reworked.  But SB-217, COVID-19 policies and spiteful politicians put officers in an impossible position.  As a result, everyday Coloradans keep falling victim to criminal activity.

Since public safety is the most basic responsibility of government, shouldn’t we expect better results from our leaders?

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s December 1 column at Colorado Politics, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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