Colorado violent crime is higher than the national average for the first time in decades

According to the most recent FBI statistics, Colorado is drowning in crime, but with the current composition of state government, the worst is likely yet to come.

None of this happens in a vacuum or by mere chance. There are causes and effects, and while this column cannot explore them all, there is one clear contributor to our current environment of rampant and runaway crime in Colorado: Democrats in charge of the government.

Crime should not be a partisan issue, but it has become so. There was a day not that long ago when there was bipartisan support for now-maligned ideas like punishment for violent and repeated criminal conduct, and preventing crime by incarcerating those who keep committing it. That was when we had divided government in Colorado.

Under Democrat control of every branch of state government, laws have been changed and new ones passed that treat criminals like victims and treat victims like … they are just unlucky. Bills that were gleefully signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Gov. Jared Polis.

The resulting surge in crime and victimization of Coloradans is undeniable.

For instance, juvenile criminals appear to have taken their cue from the increased coddling and yearly watering down of our laws by the Colorado legislature through the “but they’re just kids” approach to public safety. Since 2014, violent crime committed by those 10 to19 years old has increased 25%.

In 2016, our legislature passed two controversial laws diminishing the penalties for juvenile murderers and violent criminals, including creating a program for juvenile murderers, regardless of how many people they murder or in what horrible fashion, that would permit them to be paroled after serving as little as 25 years in prison.

District attorneys (including me) who publicly opposed these radical bills were decried as heartless and fear-mongers. In the four years following Hick signing those bills into law, there have been more homicides committed by 10 to 19 year olds than in the 11 prior years from 2006-2016. In only the first two years of Polis leadership, Colorado has seen almost exactly the same number of juvenile offenders as seen in the first six years of the last Republican in office, Gov. Bill Owens.

This year, our ACLU-influenced legislature reduced the penalties for felony murder and made violent offenders up to age 21–those are folks who can vote, serve our country, and purchase handguns and weed—eligible for the same sentencing program that preceded the unforgivable increase in juvenile murderers.

The homicide rate is out of control. Halfway through Governor Polis’ terms in office, the homicide rate per 100,000 Coloradans is nearly 80% higher than it was in 2007, the year Owens left office. All indications are that 2021 homicides will be even higher.

It is not just homicides, but all violent crime that has surged.

For the first time in the 35 years of available FBI data, Colorado’s rate of violent crime (defined as a homicide,  murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) is higher than the U.S. average and by the widest margin since before the 1985 Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, likely longer — we just don’t have data older than that.

The reversal in our public safety fortunes since the last Republican governor is striking. In 2007, Colorado’s violent crime rate was 75% of the U.S. average. Last year, under Polis, it was 106% of the U.S. average.

It’s not just violent crime, but property crime too.

For the first time since 1985, the earliest date FBI data is available, Colorado exceeded the U.S. average for all property crimes, including burglary, arson, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. If you love having your car stolen, then Democrat-controlled Colorado is the place to live.

Remember when Polis ordered sheriffs to start precluding “low-level offenders” (like car thieves) from jail during the pandemic? Colorado car thieves got the message. Last year, Colorado’s rate of stolen cars by population was 213% of the U.S. average. More than double. The widest gap going back to 1985, the first year for which such data is available.

Likewise, reported hate crimes in Colorado have increased dramatically. The first two years since Polis and Weiser were elected saw an explosion of 400% in reported hate crimes against Blacks and African Americans over the number reported during the first two years of the Trump administration.

This just scratches the surface. The latest FBI numbers are a cause of great concern for all Coloradans. It is time the Democrats in power put public safety and our innocent loved ones ahead of offenders who continue to victimize us. As Coloradans drown in crime, there is a lifeboat in the distance with two words on its side becoming clearer every day: “Election 2022.”

George Brauchler, former district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, is a fellow with the Common Sense Institute and a report on the Cost of Crime in Colorado is forthcoming. 

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