Aurora lawmakers give 1st OK to mandatory jail time for shoplifting, despite lack of cost data

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Councilmembers Curtis Gardner, left, Danielle Jurinsky and Steve Sundberg sit on the dais during a Feb. 28 city council meeting at Aurora City Hall. Jurinsky sponsored a bill this week mandating minimum jail time for shoplifting convictions over $300.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Thieves convicted of taking more than $300 in goods from Aurora retail stores may soon face no less than three days in jail, following the City Council’s tentative OK Monday for new mandatory minimum sentencing rules.

The group voted 6-3 to introduce the law on first reading, with conservatives voting in favor and progressives Alison Coombs, Juan Marcano and Ruben Medina objecting, questioning why the proposal lacked information about how much incarcerating more people in the city jail and potentially taking more cases to trial might cost.

Mayor Mike Coffman said he supported the bill but criticized the lack of a cost analysis, saying the council was unusual among elected groups he has served on for not requiring that proposals be accompanied by estimates.

“All of the legislative bodies I’ve been in do estimates,” Coffman said. “At this point in the process, we really should have fiscal notes on all ordinances that are brought forward.”

The item’s sponsor, Danielle Jurinsky, responded by asking why Coffman criticized her bill and not another bill by Councilmember Dustin Zvonek that also lacked a fiscal note.

She accused other council members of “siding with criminals” after they inquired about the plan’s cost, saying the expense of imprisoning more people in the city jail was “probably minimal,” though she did not offer a specific estimate of the associated costs or data to support her statement.

“I am not going to let this ordinance be hijacked to continue to talk about the criminals in this city,” Jurinsky said. “The message has been made very clear … (that if) you commit any theft in this city, you are going to jail. That is the message. And for my colleagues that want to continue to talk about the criminals and side with the criminals, have at it.”

Coombs warned that, by not evaluating how much proposed policies may cost the city before passing them, the council was threatening other city-run programs.

“We are putting in jeopardy everything else that we are offering to our citizens,” said Coombs.

Pete Schulte of the City Attorney’s Office said the plan would have “some cost,” but confirmed the city had not prepared an estimate, mentioning that staffers have not been tracking which theft cases would be eligible for mandatory minimum sentences.

He and Councilmember Francoise Bergan said the question was ultimately whether the law’s potential to deter retail theft was worth whatever the cost would be.

“What is the fiscal impact to the small business owners, all of the business owners actually, that have continued theft happening?,” Bergan asked. “Those businesses actually employ people, people that also depend on the livelihood of having that job. … Don’t steal. That’s the message.”

Marcano and Jurinsky also argued about the effectiveness of jail versus diversion programs at mitigating crime. At one point, Marcano asked Jurinsky whether she considered instead sentencing defendants to a program where they would be forced to wear a tracking device.

Jurinsky replied that she had not, but added, “I believe it’s time we start putting people in jail.”

Conservative lawmakers passed mandatory minimum sentences for motor vehicle theft earlier this year, becoming one of the first or the first city to do so, according to the city’s chief public defender.

The policies come as Aurora grapples with a rise in certain crimes — as of Sept. 4, the police department reported a 9.9% increase in property crime and a 19.2% increase in violent crime, comparing crimes reported by that time in 2021 and 2022.

The ordinance is scheduled to sunset unless renewed in 2024. Council members will have to vote on it one more time at an upcoming meeting before the sentencing changes can take effect. Councilmember Crystal Murillo was not present Monday night and did not vote on the proposal.

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Brave Dave
4 months ago

This certainly makes no sense, with or without this so called cost analysis. All I’ve heard lately is this constant whine from Coffman, Jurinski, et al, that we need more cops, This will slam what’s left of the force with doubling (plus) their paperwork. You’re not doing a very good job of hiding your agenda, Michelle!

Brave Dave
4 months ago

Danielle! I’m sorry.

J Walter
J Walter
4 months ago

In theory, I agree with the self-proclaimed Boebart wannabe. But, yes, the cost is going to hamstring other programs.Shoplifting, according to retailers, is making it hard to stay in business. I would be more interested in community service programs and double restitution for retailers.

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  J Walter

Then you don’t agree with her.
Look at the logistics of shoplifting.
Can it be stopped before? Or only take revenge after?

Juan
Juan
4 months ago

So now progressives must only prosecute violations of the law if it is cost effective? What happened to “no one is above the law”? I guess if your a progressive the one’s who are above the law is dictated on budgets.

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  Juan

No, but this does nothing. It’s a way to keep her name in the spotlight. She has no idea what she’s doing.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago

You’re not going to jail unless someone detains you until the police arrive (if ever). And who, may I ask, is that “someone” going to be? Employees and security “guards” are not allowed to pursue or detain thieves, and they know this.

This is all for political brownie points and makes for good press because most people don’t think things through to their conclusion, but it will have no practical effect. Someday, this may all change back to the way it used to be, but not any time soon, I’m afraid.

David Ryan
David Ryan
4 months ago

Jurinski just appears to be just another neocolonial thinking policymaker whose only tool in the intellectual toolkit is a hammer.

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

BINGO!!

Juan
Juan
4 months ago
Reply to  David Ryan

How does neocolonialism even remotely equate to curtailing shoplifting? Typical comment of the Left…..devoid of substance, long on lies and hot air.

The Whole Entire Left, All At Once, Responding To
The Whole Entire Left, All At Once, Responding To
4 months ago
Reply to  Juan

HELLO, JUAN. Since you asked……here’s some substance, I guess.

While the strict definition of “neocolonialism” typically applies to foreign policy, language and concepts evolve all the time and it makes a lot of sense to apply the label to policies that are being enacted right here in Aurora, which is part of a nation that was founded as a colony. I know you and Jurinsky want to erase that history of colonialism in our city and our country, but you haven’t succeeded yet. Danielle Jurinsky is absolutely promoting colonialist ideals in a new context – she literally last week tried to wipe Native peoples’ memory from Aurora’s history and justify her privelege to do so with the old colonial/racist dogma of “divine right”, and who now is pushing half-cooked, authoritarian “lock ’em up” programs. Idk if you know how words work, Juan, but “neo” is a prefix that indicates the concept it precedes is an old idea that is being applied in a new context – so if you smoosh “neo” and “colonialism” together, it means applying old, colonial policies in new, modern ways – and so that describes Danielle Jurinsky’s totally backward approach to making modern laws. She’s trying to take the old, disproven, medieval idea that longer punishments make people do less crimes – an idea that modern social scientists have already done hundreds of years of studies to prove has never ever worked – and apply it now, to a modern city that grew from a colony. Sounds like neocolonialism to us, we formally approve the use of the term, as the whole entire Left that you referenced.

Berv
Berv
4 months ago

There’s no fiscal impact because this whole thing is a figment of politician’s imaginations anyway.

Ms. Jurinski says she’s fighting for small business victims, but in order for that to be true, there would need to be tons of people who meet all these qualifications at once:
1) own a small retail business
2) sells small items worth large value
3) targeted by ADULT shoplifters (underage people won’t get the jail time in this ordinance)
4) CATCHES shoplifters and HOLDS those shoplifters until APD comes to make arrests
4) wants to go to court and press charges against those shoplifters

There are barely any small business retailers left in Aurora, and I can’t think of any at all that sell small, expensive items – it’s not like we have mom & pop jewelry stores and electronics shops anymore. Plus, mom & pop don’t catch shoplifters in the store – their problems aren’t with shoplifters who aren’t getting big jail sentences, mom & pop’s problem is shoplifters who don’t get caught at all – they’re losing money on the **guys who get away,** and a guy who gets away doesn’t care about an increased jail sentence he’s never gonna get. They don’t need help punishing shoplifters, they need help catching shoplifters or even defending against shoplifters so that their merchandise isn’t stolen in the first place.

This ordinance doesn’t help small business or prevent crime or even enact justice on shoplifters. At best, this is going to help BIG businesses (who Ms. Jurinsky and Mr. Coffman and his apprentice, Mr. Zvonek really represent) like Target and Walmart (who sell expensive items and get shoplifted for $300+ at a time). At worst it’s just a big show and circus to promote Ms. Jurinsky and Mr. Zvonek’s political careers as “crime fighters”. The law will do basically nothing for a year and then quietly “sunset” after the next City Council elections, and nobody will mention that it didn’t even catch and jail anyone.

Doug
Doug
4 months ago
Reply to  Berv

Damn Well said. My hero!

sugar
sugar
4 months ago
Reply to  Berv

Jurinsky is as sharp as a spoon.