Low bonds for criminals frustrate law enforcement in Denver

DENVER -- Some in law enforcement say Denver judges releasing heroin dealers back onto the streets with low bonds after they were arrested is just the tip of the iceberg.

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They say the same thing is happening with all kinds of suspected criminals, and they also say it puts public safety at risk.

Last year, an eight-person crime wave targeted homes and vehicles across the metro area.

The 142-count indictment outlines how they burglarized homes, stealing vehicles, electronics and money. The crime spree affected 100 people who suffered damage or losses totaling more than $600,000.

But the criminals should have been stopped sooner.

At the time, a Denver District Attorney's Office investigators noted, "The annoying thing about this group is that all of the players were out on multiple bonds for multiple arrests over multiple days and/or on probation."

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey said it's happening across the board, with all types of crimes and criminals.

"The problem is the current system, which is a relatively new system, errs on the side of letting people out of jail," he said.

Some call the new system "catch and release," where police catch the criminals and the judges release them on very low bonds or personal recognizance bonds, which essentially is a promise to come back to court.

"The people have no respect for this system. They're not going to come back to court, be they a heroin dealer, auto thief, home burglar," Morrissey said. "They're going to be the kind of person if you let them out they're not coming back."

Denver County presiding judge John Marcucci defense the system.

He points to a new state law and judicial reform movement that presumes suspects should be released under the least restrictive bond conditions. That means more PR bonds and lower bonds.

But the so-called reform is not working, Morrissey said.

"There's an idea out there throughout the entire system that you can somehow keep your community safe by putting an ankle bracelet around a criminal's ankle," he said. "That's proven numerous times not to be effective."