COUNCIL MEMBERS ZVONEK, JURINSKY: Aurora needs a comprehensive answer to crime, violence

Not a day goes by that Aurora isn’t faced with another tragic reminder of the violent crime that continues to terrorize our city. As candidates for city council, addressing crime was a common concern that we heard about from citizens at almost every doorstep, in every business we visited, and in every corner of the city. 

We vowed that, if elected, improving public safety would be our top priority. As Members of Council, we believe there is no greater responsibility than ensuring the safety of our citizens.

Aurora was once one of the safest cities in America, and we know it can be again. 

However, current trends suggest not enough is currently being done to address the crime wave sweeping across our city and that must change.

It is increasingly clear that the out-of-control rise in crime threatening the safety of Coloradans is in large part a result of the offender-friendly laws passed by state lawmakers, and that these out-of-touch policies have created hurdles that will be difficult to overcome. But as local elected officials, public safety must be our top priority, and we can’t wait for the State Legislature to come to their senses. 

As the chair and vice chair of the city’s public safety committee, we are co-sponsoring a resolution that outlines a comprehensive plan – the Aurora Action Plan – integrating a combination of new and ongoing strategies aimed at addressing the surge in crime head on. 

The Aurora Action Plan directs the City Manager to work with Council, to develop additional tactics toward the core strategies, and to implement a comprehensive crime reduction plan. As part of the plan, the City Manager will be required to provide monthly updates on progress made toward each of the core strategies to the public safety committee. As the axiom goes, what gets measured gets done. 

Our 5-point Aurora Action Plan includes: 

  1. A fully staffed and fully funded Aurora Police Department (APD). We believe an intentional focus must be given to ensuring that APD has the resources they need, including all specialty units critical to building and maintaining community relationships. We also want our officers to have access to ongoing and industry leading training to protect our citizens and themselves.
  1. Implementation of Data Driven Policing. We want to improve overall data collection, utilize hot spot analysis to put more officers on patrol in key neighborhoods, and improve the operational efficiency of the department through data analytics. 
  1. Rebuild Aurora Gang Reduction Impact Program (AGRIP). Our colleague, Council Member Angela Lawson, has led the way to restore and expand AGRIP to address youth violence through immediate intervention and long-term prevention strategies. We believe the integration of this program into the overall effort to address violent crime in our city is critical. 
  1. Expand Crisis Response Teams (CRTs). Early indications suggest that this program has been a success, with the one shortcoming being a lack of clinicians to fully support the program. We want to address that challenge and increase the number of clinicians available to respond to mental health calls. 
  1. Implementation of an urban camping ban. The homeless encampments that have popped up along our highways, in our neighborhoods, and next to our small businesses have created significant public health and safety challenges. Mayor Mike Coffman recently introduced a commonsense proposal that would ban camping and ensure that alternative options are available. We believe the implementation of this plan is vital to improving public safety in our community. 

We know that altering the trajectory of the out-of-control rise in crime in Aurora will not happen overnight. But we recognize that we have a duty to act. The Aurora Action Plan is a first step toward fulfilling our commitment to make your safety and the safety of our community a top priority. 

We look forward to community feedback and input from public safety experts as this plan is further refined and put into action. 

The current situation is simply untenable. It is time to act. 

Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky are at-large council members of the Aurora City Council

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Don Black
Don Black
3 months ago

As the guy who started the Police Area Representative program at APD, I requested a meeting with one of these authors to try to give them an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work in policing. I never received a response to my email requesting a meeting. I have a couple of retired friends who also wanted to be included. Much of what is being suggested is the same tired approach that law enforcement has tried for many decades. What is actually needed is a change in how we do police work. It must be a long term approach that covers the entire city with three underlying principles. While special units are needed, they are not the answer. I have worked in DART, SWAT, and the Gang Unit. I understand where it all fails. A comprehensive plan would include three critical elements that do not exist at APD. These are Communication, Commitment, and Flexibility. The PAR program was supposed to have gradually expanded so that each neighborhood had an officer who looked at every police report that came in for his/her area. That officer, along with a supervisor, would then tailor the response to what was happening in the neighborhood. The supervisor would also look at every police report that came in for that officer and about five other adjacent area officers. The supervisor and his team of officers would adjust their hours, their uniforms, their mode of transportation and whatever else was necessary to address the problems in the neighborhood. When your car is broken into every Friday night, you don’t care that a special team has arrested a bank robber. When your neighborhood is not safe, you don’t care if they made a big drug bust across town. Additionally, the officers and the supervisors would meet regularly with the neighborhood. This differs from the feel good meetings that police chiefs have. I am talking about officers who see and feel your pain and have the flexibility to address the problems. They would not patrol randomly, but would look only at the problems in your area and during the times they are occurring. The program works. I ran the pilot program after city council made the department try it. That was after another officer and I got seven thousand citizen signatures on a petition. I was told by the Division Chief that they were going to teach me a lesson and make sure that the PAR program did not work. He told me that they were going to make the areas too big. Other areas of the city soon requested a PAR officer. The department responded by eventually making a token PAR program with areas way too big. The captain overseeing the program told the officers that he did not care what they did as long as they contacted 100 people a day. Another captain told me that he wanted the officers to only work dayshift so he could talk to them. I explained that we could not address crime by only working dayshift. After I left the token program, police administrators would approach me and ask for ideas. They would put an officer in an area until it was cleaned up as I suggested. They would tell me that it worked. They then would move that officer to a new area and the original area would go back to being a problem. They never learned. The Romans learned that they had to leave soldiers in an area in order for it to remain stable. Hopefully, we have more cooperation from the citizens than the Romans did. Through the years, PAR officers would come to me and ask what they were supposed to be doing. The Chiefs never cared or understood what the program was supposed to do. It was supposed to gradually expand to cover the city and give the department a pool of manpower that could be utilized in emergencies without robbing the patrol function. Police departments follow the same tired patterns. When they have a series of crimes, auto theft for example, they organize a task force. They pull people from patrol and elsewhere to work this task force. Meanwhile, the other areas are neglected. Basically, law enforcement in not organized to handle the job. Let’s take the gang problem. When we had a working PAR program, they knew who and where the gang members were in their area. Without that, what happens is that patrol stumbles upon a nest of gang members that they did not know were in the area. It is random and uninformed. The patrol officers get ahold of the Gang Unit. It means that your police department does not know your area or its problems. They are minimally effective. I learned long ago that Chiefs accept that the police department is set up to give a minimum level of service. Police Chiefs are political animals who usually care only about appearances. Before Chief Wilson was selected, I wrote an article to the Sentinel requesting that Aurora not be given another smooth talking politician for a chief. l included Vanessa Wilson in that category. She had plenty of time in the department to show that she was looking for better ways to protect the public. She never stood up and tried to do anything. She simply massaged her political career like the political types we have had for decades as chief. A real chief would have been making noise about how flawed the police reform bill was and what damage it was doing to law enforcement. If you really care about professional policing, you are looking constantly at how things are working and how we can improve. To not understand something as simple as the PAR concept shows a total lack of concern for the type of service you are giving the citizens. To not have clamored for more and better training throughout your career shows a complete lack of concern. A city manager looks for a politically correct, shiny chief who will not disagree with him. Those citizen input meetings for a chief’s selection don’t entail any real substantive discussion on how we can address crime and leadership. They are meant to make you feel good about that sensitive and caring chief (to your face) that you are going to select. I don’t expect things to change. Politicians will announce grand plans with little input from people who do the job. They say they are soliciting input, but not really. At any rate, I just want you to know that there are better ways to do things. Getting them through the political types is difficult. There is a Scythian proverb from 600 AD. It goes “Wise men argue causes…fools decide them”. I doubt it will ever change.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

Thank you, both for your service and for your insight. I can see that by trying to enact change, you became what they like to call a “trouble-maker,” which they then denigrate and wear down, instead of listening and taking suggestions to heart.

Steve Lundgrin
Steve Lundgrin
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

The PAR program works. I loved the PAR officer I had for my area, but because of the shortage of officers in the police department under this police chief, he was forced to go back on patrol. So was the other PAR officer assigned to our area. The performance of an organization is a reflection of its leadership, or lack thereof, and I believe that is what we are seeing with the current police chief and city manager. They are either part of the solution or part of the problem. I don’t think it’s the former.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Lundgrin

I think you are quite wrong. You would have to be very specific why you blame the people you blame. I spoke to someone the other day and was told we lost 8 officers already after training them to another jurisdiction because that’s where they wanted to go to begin with. We just facilitated their education. THAT needs to change for sure!

Publius
Publius
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

I seem to recall Aurora having foot patrol officers and multi-family officers working crime extensively and in conjunction with PAR officers and a dedicated prosecuting attorney who worked out of an office on Colfax. Being connected to the community they understood it and had an impact, or so I remember.

I seem to remember PAR working with Code Enforcement and the DEA to sweep areas of the city. Those efforts seemed to bear fruit, for a time. Do you know what happened to those programs? Did you work with those programs?

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Black

I’ve been a major critic of your rhetoric in the past. I’m going to give you major kudo’s for this post now! I think you hit it on the head. I’m not surprised the council people haven’t gotten back to you actually. And I agree with your idea regarding : Communication, Commitment, and Flexibility. It sounds to be like ‘thinking outside the box’ and we certainly need that at this time. Thank you for pointing out the flaws and a big thank you for pointing out solutions!

Susan Carr
Susan Carr
3 months ago

Fire the police chief.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Susan Carr

You are a knee-jerker with a grudge. No one pays any attention to your type.

Susan Wynn
Susan Wynn
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Susan Carr is correct! The sept will never progress with someone like V who is only concerned with her career.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan Wynn

show us the proof. who are you to say? what chief isn’t concerned with their career???? for god’s sake???? have you even spoken to the Chief???

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Agreed. Just a whiner without specifying cause or reason….not someone to listen to at all.

Bob
Bob
3 months ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFhP0hig1RY

The city has seen enough talk-the-talk city council officials. In response, we have elected new council that have said they are willing to be different to walk-the-walk with changes. Some of the Wards, Ward 1 specifically, is a ongoing war zone.Ward 1, is in desperate need, so council please feel free and start there.As Old-Aurora, is an pronounced embarrassment. The link attached comes as a new local focused video media by some industrious independent video-geographer . The cross section of citizens, in attendance last week and their problems are evident. Aurora’s leadership in the past has lost its way,And that is where the main problem will remain as some on council think more about creating policy for climate change, city sponsored and manged internet, city run banking services.
I’m more looking forward to safe neighborhoods, not having my car stolen and vandalized for once, than cheaper internet.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

sounds like same ole same ole to me….don’t address the issues just arrest everyone and fill up the jails…then complain about the taxes

Chris Rhodes
Chris Rhodes
3 months ago

So, in other words…do nothing to address the root cause and instead just terrorize black and brown parts of Aurora with more police. Gee, I wonder how that will work. Its not like we haven’t seen that tried before.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rhodes

But the root cause (I call it “digging deeper.”) takes thought and effort. It’s easier to make political speeches, blame others and watch nothing get done. I would like to think (and hope) that something will change, but, as you say, been there, done that.

Justin
Justin
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rhodes

You know why you never see change? The criminal element/culture is never asked to change, it’s ALWAYS the fault of the police. Police have been forced to bend, over and over and over….. It takes cooperation from both sides and until that changes, it is wasted energy to expect anything different.

As far as Mr Black’s comment, PAR has it’s place but it is a luxury that can’t be staffed. With the current administration in place, PAR won’t be seen again. Change out the city manager and the chief’s office before the department is unrepairable.

DICK MOORE
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rhodes

I’m sorry you believe that police terrorize citizens whatever their color. Most of us believe that police do not terrorize anyone but are trained to protect everyone except those with a criminal intent.

Back in the early 90’s, we citizens passed the 2 per 1000 because crime was out of control mostly with gangs and North Aurora. Crime went down dramatically with that abundance of policemen for about 20 years. That’s how it works.

Social workers saying please stop to folks with criminal intent is what doesn’t work.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  DICK MOORE

partially true Dick. You do still have some that do use a badge to terrorize and you and I know that. No you don’t ask criminals to stop what you do is find out why they are criminals and try to intervene before that happens. If you don’t then what’s the point? That’s what social workers are for to look behind the scenes. The more education there is the better off everyone is. It’s gotta be started early.

Susan Wynn
Susan Wynn
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris Rhodes

OH Please!!! Stop race baiting! Deal with accountability. What did that person do. Who cares about the race.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan Wynn

well, apparently you do susan or you wouldn’t have brought it up. remember this ?

Screenshot 2022-03-23 174734.png
Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

The current state of affairs in this Country is untenable. We all agree on that. A safer community is the chief goal of all legislators and council members, not just you two, as you seem to suggest. But if ideas and lip service can solve the problem, we most certainly will be the safest city on earth in short order.

I notice no attention was given to the problem of too-many guns in the hands of too-many people who shouldn’t even have them or to the problem of out-of-control juveniles (except for those in gangs), whose upbringing and our educational system have failed them and the rest of us. The problem of juvenile crime starts at home and in the schools, not on the streets, but you failed to include those in your “solutions.” I hope you wake up. The solutions to all of our society’s problems lie deeper than you and most other folks seem to realize.

I will be interested to observe how you plan to “make” more people want to become police officers. That would be better affected by getting the current officers, usually the senior ones, under control, as the current Chief is doing, so that policing is once again an honored career with the respect and trust of the public.

I will also be interested to see how giving the unhoused the opportunity to go to a shelter (which opportunity already exists), when there is not enough shelter space as it is; how arresting the unhoused and sending them to already overcrowded jails and overtaxing our court system will deter them; or how issuing fines to folks who have no way of paying them will have any beneficial effect. But carry on. You will learn the folly of this in time. The problem of homelessness requires an area-wide collaboration of municipalities and agencies, rather than a knee-jerk reaction from a few in only one city. And nothing good can ever come from criminalizing homelessness.

Have you paid any attention to Austin, Texas, where the problem of policing is being solved progressively, not by hiring more police officers, but by hiring more civilian police-support personnel, such as mental-health counselors, social workers and incident-intervention specialists? Austin has reduced the number of calls which require actual officers by 60% we are told. Non-uniformed personnel, it has been discovered, can reduce the number of calls to which an armed and uniformed officer must respond, and the public has taken to the idea of not having a uniformed and armed officer in its face on every call. Motor-vehicle accidents, thefts, vandalism, etc. do not require uniformed officers to investigate. Nor do domestic-violence cases. Folks better trained and equipped to handle those types of issues are having success, and this frees up officers to respond to calls involving violence and threats to life. Those are the very officers which can be freed to patrol neighborhoods, which we used to have and which we sorely need again. You did mention “mental-health clinicians,” but there are many more instances in which civilian support personnel could be utilized to the public’s advantage.

Data-driven analytics and statistics rarely make anyone safer. We already know where the crimes are committed, what the crimes are, and who commits them.

And lastly, I am not convinced that the City Manager is the person who should be overseeing any of this. A degreed specialist in this area seems to be better suited for this task. But we can rest assured that all of the issues and their prospective solutions will be politicized and argued ad nauseum with little or no action taken while laying lots of blame. But by all means, pat yourselves on the backs for an otherwise well-written letter.

Bill Malone
Bill Malone
3 months ago

If the steps taken in the letter from the two new council members works great. If not will they resign? Doubtful but we might hear something about take out the trash and just who is trash. Aurora can only do so much as a city, all effort’s will be welcomed. However there are many causes of Aurora’s problems and law enforcement is one area of many. The Consent Decree may help some but it will not be a magic wand.

Sid Vollema
Sid Vollema
2 months ago

Regarding the 5-Point Aurora Action Plan I would urge Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky to remove action point 5: Implementation of an urban camping ban. By including this point in your plan, you are criminalizing the homeless. There is no causal relation between rising crime rates and Homeless camps.
You should discuss the camping ban separately. Regarding the camping ban I would recommend Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky to look into the successful Homelessness Prevention programs and the RRH (Rapid Re-Housing) programs of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). By adapting these programs you don’t even need a camping ban. But my main point is: Do not criminalize the Homeless!

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Sid Vollema

they won’t do that…they like that very much…believe me…

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
1 month ago

This whole piece is side speak. Because you preach safety without availability. You claim to want safer streets, yet you attempt to pass a ban to wage war on the worst off. Knowing you have no proper sheltering options for them in place. Knowing you plan to throw everything they have away, all to trade for a couple nights on a cheap mat on the floor of the ADRC, just to be treated more like an animal than before. This camping ban, considering the lack of associated resources to enact such both safely and humanely, is a declaration of war in Aurora. A class war that it seems these Council Members are hyped to start right away.

But for anyone thats been up past Colfax, we all know what that war is gonna look like. You’re gonna hide in your offices inside the Municipal Building and send the cops to do all the harming and killing for you. Maybe that’s what she’s been offering them up free food and drinks at her establishments for. As payment for the soulless abuse she expects them to enact on others by her order.

Aurora asked you for a way to answer the rising crime and poverty in the City. You decided War was the Answer. Twice now you’ve voted in favor of waging a war you yourself will not participate in. might I suggest you ask any of the multitude of Veterans, both the homeless ones and the ones on the police force. War gets nasty, and messy, and the only progress that gets made is the progression of continually increasing numbers of lives spent on nothing.

Rethink your ban. It’s current form is more than unsustainable, more than inhumane. It is a recipe for disaster, if you smell what I’m cooking. Think before you act now, or be guilty for the blood all over your hands later.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Omen Cross

Stay tuned. The council is supposed to keep the citizens apprised of how their program is running on a regular basis. They should be able to do this now that they don’t have to worry about censuring themselves for saying stupid things about other people in violation of the rules and Open Meeting laws….right?

Barbara Sharp
Barbara Sharp
1 month ago

I was under the impression that one of the main reasons the police were not pursuing more criminals was that they had not place to put them, so they just got released back to the streets. Is this really part of the problem? And, if so, Is there something in the plan to address this issue?