Aurora lawmakers impose mandatory 3 days in jail for shoplifting more than $300

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Melissa Morehead, a senior detention officer, gets shackles ready for the five inmates she’s transferring to the Arapahoe County Jail at the Aurora Municipal Detention Center. City lawmakers voted 6-4 Sept. 26, 2022 to impose mandatory three-day jail sentences for adults convicted of shoplifting more than $300. (File photo Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Any adult convicted of stealing more than $300 in merchandise from an Aurora retail store will soon face no fewer than three days in the municipal jail, under a new mandatory minimum sentencing law passed by Aurora’s City Council on Monday.

The minimum jail sentence of three days, short enough to be served in the city holding facility, was introduced in response to what Mayor Mike Coffman described as the “literally lawless” problem of retail theft in the city, despite a marked drop in arrests.

Police reported in a summary of crime data for the week of Sept. 18 that property crime has risen 10.3% since last year. At the same time, police Division Chief Cassidee Carlson said Monday that the number of arrests and summonses of adults for retail theft exceeding $300 was less than pre-pandemic levels, with 177 reported in 2019, compared to 38 so far in 2022.

She also said that shoplifting is underreported and that police are trying to build relationships with the owners of stores targeted for theft. The proposal’s sponsor, Danielle Jurinsky, said the law was meant to support businesses that have become the victims of crime.

The change would not apply to juveniles convicted of shoplifting.

“This ordinance is really to start standing up for business owners in this city and start talking about the victims, and addressing something to help the victims, and stop doing everything in our power to help the criminals,” Jurinsky said.

Not all council members agreed, though, that jail is effective at discouraging crime. Councilmember Juan Marcano said he believed diversion and prevention programs that have the potential to reach juveniles would be more effective and cost the community less in the long run.

While earlier this month the plan was criticized for having no fiscal analysis, Jurinsky responded to Marcano by saying there would be “absolutely no financial impact from the judicial part of this,” though she said the public defender’s office was unsure what the cost would be, and it was unclear whether Jurinsky considered the cost of prosecuting more cases in municipal court.

Jurinsky also said it would cost the city $75 for every additional night in the city jail, but she did not say if this was the per-person estimate or the total estimate of the cost of new incarcerations.

She argued that it was less humane to sentence defendants to diversion programs than jail, because the cost of wearing an ankle monitor is too much for some to afford, and if defendants can’t pay the up-front costs associated with attaching the monitor, they’re thrown in jail.

Councilmember Alison Coombs said she believed the impacts of incarceration, including being forced to miss work, made jail a more expensive option regardless.

“Although I do think there’s an issue with the cost of diversion programs, I don’t think that it’s comparable to the cost of losing one’s employment, which can lead to many other downstream effects,” she said. “If you no-call, no-show to your job because you’re in jail, you’re going to lose your job.”

The law’s supporters again urged the city to think of the toll that shoplifting takes on small businesses, with Councilmember Francoise Bergan insisting that jail acts as a deterrent for criminals.

“I think it does help to deter that behavior in our city,” Bergan said. “I think there’s also a tremendous loss to the business owners. … They’re losing millions of dollars, in some cases, from stolen items, and what do we say to them?”

Marcano replied to say that “jail is not an effective deterrent” and that the new sentencing law would not steer the city in a new direction in terms of crime.

“Are we just digging ourselves into the same hole that we’re already in, where we just accept this kind of crime and we just basically create a revolving door of people going to jail?” he asked. “I think we can actually address the problem and change people’s lives through effective intervention, and frankly it’s much cheaper for us to do that through (doing) things like raising the minimum wage and investing in housing.”

Council members voted 6-4 to finalize the new mandatory sentencing law, with Coombs, Marcano, Ruben Medina and Crystal Murillo opposed. The law includes a sunset provision that will require the group to revisit its effectiveness in two years.

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Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
2 months ago

Coffman loves to blame and punish even if science/data shows it has the opposite and very harmful effect in many situations and now with a cruel conservative majority, the “stupid uniformed” approach to small nonviolent crime is going to take off. Aurora can be known as the cruel town that only equates punishment with justice, rather than looking at programs like restorative justice and trying to learn something about a topic before dropping the hammer of wanting to judge and punish.

CoachLight Inn
CoachLight Inn
2 months ago

@Debra MacKillop. Are you crazy? You ought to know about “stupid and uninformed”. There is absolutely NO science/data that shows an opposite and harmful effect in punishing these crimes. I can’t believe there are clueless voters such as yourself out there who actually think that way. Something has GOT to be done about the crime wave we are seeing in Aurora. Criminals know they can get away with this crap. Maybe NOW they will think twice before pulling their crap in Aurora. Despite what the media shoves down our throats, many of us (not just Auroans) are FED UP! Way to go, Mayor Coffman and the common-sense CMs for finally taking action to clean up this nonsense and create a safer community for all.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago

“Judge and punish,” proven by the DOJ to deter low-level criminality versus lax and criminal-friendly. I wonder which would be more appealing to criminals.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago

“If you no-call, no-show to your job because you’re in jail, you’re going to lose your job.” Excellent point in support of jail time to deter shoplifting, Ms. Coombs.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago

Coombs and Marcano try to sell the idea that crime is merely a result of wages and/or homelessness. What they fail to acknowledge is that crime is a CHOICE–much of the time, a recurring lifestyle choice.

It’s insulting to say poorer people are forced to resort to a life of crime, considering the abundance of resources and relief available for struggling Aurora citizens, from SNAP and TANF to housing subsidies to school lunch programs to food pantries to utility discounts to shelter and the list goes on and on.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Not at all. You’re mistaken. They are simply pointing out alternatives to something that doesn’t work. Incarceration doesn’t work. We have more people incarcerated in this country than any other country in the world. It deters no one.

FactsOverFeelings
FactsOverFeelings
2 months ago

To suggest that poorer people don’t have more motivation for theft makes no sense at all. Get your head out of the sand.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago

My head is not in the sand, sir or madam. Plenty of families, mine included, have experienced poverty without resorting to crime as an option. Motivation to commit a crime does not equal compulsion. Stop being such an apologist for the dregs of society.

It’s about values, integrity, and cultural pathology more often than not. Merely enlisting in the military immediately solves your poverty for as long as you’d like, unless of course, you disqualify yourself through drug abuse or crime first.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

More lip service by Danielle.
Aurora city lawmakers (no, the conservatives did) last night voted 6-4 to approve a bill that would mandate a three-day jail sentence for any adult convicted of shoplifting more than $300. BUY! The change would not apply to juveniles convicted of shoplifting. (Why not??)
She (Danielle) argued that it was less humane (?) to sentence defendants to diversion programs than jail, because the cost of wearing an ankle monitor is too much for some to afford, and if defendants can’t pay the up-front costs associated with attaching the monitor, they’re thrown in jail. WELL! WE’RE paying for incarceration, let’s pay for the ankle bracelet instead.
The Danielle Syndrome: poorly conceived, poorly researched, poorly presented – kinda like injection of bleach for covid-29-remember that one,?

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Why not both jail time AND an ankle bracelet on release? I am honestly surprised the ACLU hasn’t shut down the monitoring device already, on the basis of the shame the criminal must endure.

Publius
Publius
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

In answer to your question of why not juveniles, because the Aurora Detention Center is not set up nor licensed to take juveniles and the intent here is to use existing City resources to address the matter. Whether that reasoning strikes a cord with you or not I cannot say, but that is the reasoning.

Trebor Cadeau
Trebor Cadeau
2 months ago

Now the criminal must firsteal a calculator and add up price tags while stealing the store’s other possessions. (Do not forgeto include the price of the calculator.)

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

So, Danielle says:Jurinsky also said it would cost the city $75 for every additional night in the city jail
Truth is : $118 set up fee then 11 per day. All said cheaper than 3 nights in jail.
No job loss, community service possibilities, diversion possibilities…what an informed concept.

Darrell Sadler
Darrell Sadler
2 months ago

What will happen is the adult will begin sending in the youths to do their dirty work.

Hypocrisy Monitor
Hypocrisy Monitor
2 months ago
Reply to  Darrell Sadler

Darrell, you are a little late with that epiphany. Gangs recruit juveniles today. Why do you think we experience weekly shootings of young black men by young black men primarily? Youth violence is gang violence. Always has been, but woke leftists loathe to admit it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Hypocrisy Monitor