Rate in­creases much faster than rest of U.S.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Kirk Mitchell

Crime rates dropped or re­mained static in many of the na­tion’s 30 largest cities last year, but in Colorado the crime rate per 100,000 peo­ple spiked by 3.4 per­cent, fu­eled by a rise in auto thefts, rape, mur­der and rob­bery.

Colorado’s crime-rate in­crease in 2016 was more than 11 times the 0.3 per­cent av­er­age in­crease re­ported in the 30 largest cities in the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice.

Last year’s num­ber of homi­cides — 189 — marked a 9.9 per­cent in­crease over the 172 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Colorado Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port “2016 Crime in Colorado.” Nearly one in three homi­cides

were com­mit­ted in Den­ver.

Fac­tor­ing in the state’s pop­u­la­tion grown, the homi­cide rate in­creased 6.3 per­cent per 100,000 res­i­dents, the CBI re­ported.

Some Colorado law­mak­ers, po­lice and le­gal ex­perts partly blame the mar­i­juana in­dus­try, claim­ing that it has lured tran­sients and crim­i­nals to the state. Oth­ers point to a dra­matic in­crease in the num­ber of cars stolen to com­mit other crimes or to ship to Mex­ico. In­creases in crime are of­ten a re­flec­tion of eco­nomic con­di­tions, said Steve Davis, spokesman for the Lake­wood Po­lice De­part­ment.

“I think it would be naive not to be­lieve the in­crease in drug use is not hav­ing an im­pact on the crime rate,” said Rep. Cole Wist, R-Cen­ten­nial, who serves on the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. But Cole added that it’s not just mar­i­juana that is hav­ing an im­pact on crime, but also an in­crease in the use of heroin and il­le­gal pre­scrip­tion drugs.

Boul­der County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Stan Garnett said the pas­sage of the felony drunken driv­ing law by Gov. John Hick­en­looper in 2015 also trig­gered an in­crease in felony crimes that are counted in the an­nual sum­mary of crime statis­tics. Boul­der County alone has had be­tween 60 and 100 felony drunken driv­ing cases since the law’s pas­sage, Garnett said.

One of the el­e­ments of the state re­port that was es­pe­cially trou­bling to le­gal author­i­ties was the rise in the num­ber of vi­o­lent crimes.

The num­ber of rapes in­creased 7.2 per­cent — from 3,275 in 2015 to 3,512 in 2016 — the CBI re­port says. The in­crease of rapes per 100,000 res­i­dents was 5 per­cent.

Rob­beries in Colorado in­creased 5.9 per­cent to 3,518, and the num­ber of ag­gra­vated as­saults jumped 8.3 per­cent to 10,682, ac­cord­ing to the CBI re­port.

The num­ber of homi­cides across the state was the high­est since 2004, ac­cord­ing to records. It also rep­re­sents a 47 per­cent in­crease over the 129 homi­cides in 2010.

There were 57 mur­ders in Den­ver in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. That rep­re­sented 30 per­cent of all mur­ders in Colorado.

CBI of­fi­cials in­di­cated they can’t of­fer an anal­y­sis about why crime in­creased in the state. Den­ver po­lice did not re­turn a phone mes­sage. But state law­mak­ers, county pros­e­cu­tors and po­lice chiefs of­fered a lot of per­spec­tive.

Gree­ley Po­lice Chief Jerry Garner said he and many other po­lice chiefs across Colorado have no­ticed a big in­crease in the num­ber of tran­sients mov­ing to the state and con­tribut­ing to a surge in bur­glar­ies.

“They were break­ing into homes to bur­glar­ize them, break­ing into cars and break­ing into homes to stay warm in the win­ter,” said Garner, who added that Gree­ley had a 20 per­cent in­crease in ma­jor crimes.

The most dra­matic in­crease in crime cat­e­gories in Colorado, the re­port says, was in the num­ber of mo­tor ve­hi­cle thefts — up 22 per­cent to 19,430 in 2016 from 15,932 in 2015.

“I think we are see­ing more and more cars stolen to com­mit other crimes,” said Davis, the Lake­wood po­lice spokesman. “There are more and more crimes com­mit­ted to sup­port drug habits.”

Lake­wood, like other Den­ver metro cities, is in the midst of a rash of “smash and grab” bur­glar­ies of gun shops and con­ve­nience stores, Davis said. Thieves steal unoc­cu­pied cars warm­ing up in drive­ways and use them to ram en­trances to stores. Then they aban­don the cars.

In the past, thieves would steal a car for their own use or to sell on the black mar­ket, Davis said.

Garnett said there has been an in­crease in the num­ber of felony do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges. Vic­tims are not as of­ten seek­ing help be­fore the abuse es­ca­lates to more vi­o­lent crime.

“We’re try­ing to fig­ure out what that is tied to,” he said.

Wist said there is a dire need to im­prove trust be­tween po­lice and the com­mu­nity. He also sees an eco­nomic cor­re­la­tion to crime.

“When folks don’t have hope, they’ll turn to other al­ter­na­tives,” Wist said.

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