Aurora’s murders are up 53% year over year. No simple explanation for the rise in violence
More people were killed in murders in Aurora in the first seven months of 2020 than in all of 2018.
23 people have been killed in the city so far this year – a 53% increase from the 15 people killed in the same period last year and more than the 18 people killed in 2018. In the first six months of the year, every category of serious crime increased with the exception of sexual assault in the first six months of 2019.
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement emailed to the Denver Post that it was impossible to pinpoint an exact cause of the rise in crime.
“The rise in crime is not just a problem for the police, it is a problem for our entire community,” she said.
Aurora isn’t the only Front Range town where violent crime is growing rapidly. Denver is well on its way to experiencing its deadliest year in a decade, and the number of serious assaults rose 22% in the first half of the year. Several large cities across the country are reporting similar trends.
“Aurora is not immune to the subway and violent crimes are increasing across the country,” said Wilson.
Crime experts also say that it is difficult to say exactly why so many violent crimes are on the rise because there are so many factors: a pandemic that has changed almost every aspect of daily life, the economic fallout from it, and nationwide protests against police brutality, which affects how people think of the police.
“It’s hard to unravel these events,” said David Pyrooz, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies crime. “I don’t know if we’ll ever make it.”
A study of crime rates in 27 major US cities, including Denver, found that many categories declined in the first few weeks of the pandemic as businesses closed and states enacted stay-at-home ordinances. However, from May onwards, murder and assault rates rose significantly, the researchers found. The study was prepared for the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, a group of experts tasked with examining the impact of the pandemic on the country’s criminal justice system.
The study’s authors found that there was no clear link between recent protests against police brutality and the rise in violent crime. The pandemic has disrupted the methods that police and community groups are using to prevent and interrupt violence, the study said.
“Overcoming the COVID-19 epidemic is also a necessary prerequisite for stopping the rise in violence,” the study authors wrote. “Police, public health and community approaches to reducing violence require people to meet in person. They cannot be replaced by zoom. An underestimated consequence of the pandemic is how social distancing requirements have impacted the reach of people at high risk. “
There has been an increase in serious crimes in each of the three Aurora Police Department counties defined as murder, sexual assault, serious assault, robbery, break-ins, car theft, and theft.
Aurora’s deputy chief Harry Glidden said in a city council hearing on Thursday that eight of the murders were related to drug sales, two to gang activity, and one to domestic violence. The underlying circumstances for the other cases remain unclear, he said.
Councilor Allison Hiltz, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Courts and Civil Service, described the increase in crime as alarming.
Overall, the number of violent crimes in the city has increased by 17%, and the number of serious property crimes has increased by 12% compared to the first six months of 2019 at the same interval:
- Victims of sexual assault: 125, minus 27%
- Increase in victims of attacks: 986, plus 27%
- Robbery: 334, plus 14%
- Burglary incidents: 795, up 23%
- Car theft: 1,407, plus 21%
- Cases of theft: 3,667, plus 7%
Part of the problem is that some property crime suspects are not jailed after arrests because prisons and courts have changed procedures to limit the number of people in detention centers who have been hotspots for COVID-19 outbreaks, Wilson said. These people then commit more crimes, she said.
Early research into the impact of the coronavirus pandemic showed that it had mixed effects on crime, Pyrooz said.
A medical system overloaded with COVID-19 claims could impact the number of murders, he said.
“The difference between a serious attack and a murder often has to do with our first responders,” he said.
In a broader sense, the daily operations and resources of millions of people have been disrupted by the pandemic, which has had an impact on the emergence of crime, he said. The police are also adapting their reaction in the face of increased health risks and renewed criticism of their profession.
“The trend in Aurora is not looking good,” Pyrooz said of the crime data. “The trend is not looking good in Denver. Someone in leadership has to say that enough is enough. “