AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) – In the first three months of 2020, crime in every category was up in Aurora. With COVID shutdowns and the social unrest following the George Floyd incidents, it appears to be getting even worse for the city that calls itself “The Safest Big City in Colorado.”
Homicide investigators are trying to figure out what led to a shooting that left a man and a woman dead near the intersection of East Colfax Avenue and North Beeler Street. This comes just two days after a 31-year-old man was shot and killed at the same intersection.
These deaths bring the number of murders in Aurora to 22 so far this year. For comparison, last year, there were 28 murders in Aurora the entire year.
- 2019 – 28 murders
- 2018 – 18 murders
- 2017 – 30 murders
- 2016 – 22 murders
- 2015 – 24 murders
District Attorney George Brauchler said he is not surprised by the explosion of violence. He said, “We’ve seen a 400 percent increase in murder cases filed in the first six months of this year versus the first six months of last year. That trend has held true for attempted murders as well. We’ve seen an uptick in burglaries, residential and business, aggravated robberies. It would be hard to find an area of serious crime we haven’t seen an uptick in.”
Interim Manager of Communications for the City of Aurora, Michael Bryant said, “Aurora police are working to identify whether recent crimes have any connections, common themes or similarities, so they can specifically address those issues. Any crimes, and especially upticks in crime, are concerning, and we need to communicate clearly and quickly what’s going on and any patterns we see.”
Brauchler listed numerous causes but said there isn’t an easy solution. “I wish I could tell you there was one thing that could be addressed that would fix this, but I can’t. I think it’s a combination of events that began with the COVID lockdown from the government,” he said.
“That was followed by the social unrest from the George Floyd incidents, then frankly I think the government’s response to the some of the violent aspects of the protest are underwhelming to the point now where our good crime fighters, our men in women in uniform are now on their heels and they are walking around on eggshells.”
Law enforcement agencies are not being as proactive as they once were, he mentioned. “It would be impossible to be a law enforcement officer in this environment, to see how the public has responded, how quickly legislation was generated, before it was changed, was so anti law enforcement that they would be able to do their jobs the same way they were before,” he said.
“I think we have lost the ability to be proactive. I think officers are afraid… and cities are afraid of liability that stems from any claims that officers acted outside the bounds of what reasonable practice is.”
In addition, he said criminals are not being taken off the streets like they once were. “I mean between the limitations about who we could send to jail during COVID and some of the fears about liability and public backlash for law enforcement officers being physical in any way with people, I think you’re seeing warrants are going unexecuted,” he said.
“I think you are seeing less and less people on violent serious crimes being taken into custody and off the street. That word gets out there, bad guys talk to each other, they know the rules of the road and they adjust their behavior accordingly.”
He is also worried that good police officers will leave the profession and new recruits will be discouraged by the lack of support for law enforcement. “I don’t think this is one off. I think it’s the start of something horrible,” he said.
“You just don’t see this same uptick in crime, at least what we’re seeing, in rural and suburban areas.” But he said Aurora is not alone. “It’s not unique to Aurora. I’m sure it’s not unique to Denver. Chicago, New York City, these places exploding with violent crime and we’re not different. That’s too bad.”
Crime trends tend to be a regional issue, Bryant pointed out. “We know it’s not just unique to Aurora, and a regional approach is required. Council Member Allison Hiltz, chair of the Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service Policy Committee, will be asking for a presentation on this issue at an upcoming committee meeting,” he said.
Brauchler is not sure of the answer, but he is thankful long overdue conversations are taking place. He prefers to concentrate on good things that are happening, and believes now is not the time to take funding away from police departments.
“It’s the answer if you’re a criminal. It’s the answer if you think police cause crime or police are encouraging crime to take place. Look, you just can’t put the cart before the horse. I am all for the idea that as we figure out a way to stem the tide of crime, we start to take resources that were once dedicated to these hard charging men and women who are out there to put distance between us and evil,” he said.
“I get it. Lets redirect them. You don’t do that first then cross your fingers and hope that sound in your basement in the middle of the night is someone who is there to do something other than harm to you or your family. That’s crack smoke crazy.”