Aurora touts ‘safest large’ Colorado city distinction, an honor it bestows upon itself

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AURORA | In a statement brimming with pride, Aurora police and city officials announced last week that Aurora is once again, “the safest large city in Colorado.”

The moniker means that when compared to the state’s two larger cities of Denver and Colorado Springs, Aurora saw less crime per-capita in 2016, same as it did in 2015, 2014 and 2013.

When compared to other cities around the nation with at least 250,000 people, Aurora, with 366,477 people, ranked No. 25.

“Our ranking as the safest large city in Colorado, and as one of the safest major cities in the country would not be possible without the dedication and hard work of every member of the Aurora Police Department,” Aurora police Chief Nick Metz said in a statement announcing the ranking. “Our success in keeping Aurora safe would not be possible without the partnerships we have established with the members of the community we serve, and by working closely and collaboratively with the Mayor and Councilmembers of the City of Aurora.”

Focus on Aurora’s crime rate comes from years of consternation at city hall with how local media report Aurora crime. Past city officials have even appealed to newspaper and television stations about how “Aurora” makes its way into broadcast and print headlines, but how Aurora officials claimed that Denver and other communities usually do not.

Mayor Steve Hogan and others have said that the result has been the public perception that there’s more crime in Aurora than there actually is.

City officials regularly say that much of the public is unaware of how large Aurora really is, and that the real gauge of public safety is the rate of crime, not the number of times media report incidents. So for the last several years, Aurora officials have focused on what what they say are earmarks of a safe community.

The “safest large city” designation announced last week doesn’t come from some outside agency. Instead, it is bestowed on Aurora by Aurora officials based on statistics from the FBI and calculations by Aurora police crime analysts.

Aurora police spokesman Officer Bill Hummel said the department compares Aurora only to other cities with a minimum of 250,000 residents and only to those cities that report major crime data to the FBI.

That data covers murders, rapes, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Not all cities contribute to the FBI statistics. Arvada and Centennial, for example, are not included in this year’s FBI statistics.

Even when compared to other Colorado cities with 100,000 people or more, Aurora still ranks relatively high.

The city’s crime rate of 35.89 ranks trails Fort Collins, with a rate of 26.58, and Boulder with a rank of 32.35. The city also trails Thornton, bust just barely as that north-metro suburb comes in with a crime rate of 35.07.

Aurora ranks ahead of smaller Colorado towns including Greeley, Westminster, Lakewood and Pueblo.

Still, the designation comes as crime in Aurora — and in cities around the country — has been rising in recent years. From 2015 to 2016, Aurora saw about an 8-percent spike in major crime. The recent increase, however, reveals that Aurora, like the rest of the state, still has far less crime than it did a decade ago when 50,000 fewer people called the city home. The crime rate in Aurora in 2006, for example, was 40.40.