EDITORIAL: 5-point Aurora crime plan is a good start for the region

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Aurora police at the scene of a 2019 shooting. FILE PHOTO BY PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Lawmakers from across the Aurora region have every reason to rally behind an Aurora City Council proposal to address a dire hike in crime — especially shootings among teenagers.

Aurora councilmembers Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky are proposing a five-point plan to push the rising crime needle in the other direction.

Most of the suggestions in the plan are tried-and-true efforts that provably make the city, and the region, a safer place to live, work and play.

Here’s what they’re suggesting and the entire city council is pondering now:

• Ensure that Aurora’s police department is fully staffed, expertly trained and provided the resources they need to protect themselves and the public.

• Ensure that changes in law enforcement policies, procedures and dedication of resources is data driven. This is a crucial touchstone not just for police, but all city functions and programs.

• Rebuild the Aurora Gang Reduction Impact Program. Only good things can come from focusing city police and other resources on the complicated and dangerous issue of youth violence. While this is just one of a host of current and possible city and regional efforts to address youth violence, it will be important to ensure an “umbrella” effort provides for commitment and to reduce duplication.

• Expand Aurora Police Crisis Response Teams. These projects are showing success here and across the country. They vary, but essentially the idea is to ensure mental health professionals respond to calls involving people experiencing a mental health crisis, either with or without uniformed officers. The program in Aurora and others are begging for closer review to ensure the units are used effectively and safely for both the public and the responding agents.

• Implement an Aurora homeless camping ban. We disagree here that this is an effective way of reducing either the crisis of homelessness in the city or the problems it causes not only for the people without homes, but the community. For decades, in the Aurora-Denver region and across the country, camping bans have proven to be a costly, ineffective way to solve the complicated problem of homelessness or any real or perceived harm to the rest of the community. The evidence is irrefutable that these bans do nothing but shuffle homeless campers from one site to the next. New, pending Aurora legislation, dubbed a camping ban, simply recodifies past failures in addressing the problem. There’s hope, however, that language leveraging demand for new and increased shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness will benefit everyone by helping to get this dire and vulnerable population into shelters and ultimately, into permanent housing. But it’s naive or misguided to believe that having police sweep encampments will have any meaningful or lasting effect.

While the rest of these goals are important and well-grounded ideas, this is by no means a complete formula for improving public safety.

There are a few caveats that must become touchstones as city lawmakers and leaders move ahead.

More than anything, no one here, or anywhere, has a solid understanding of what’s driving an increase in crime, and especially violent crime.

Both Zvonek and Jurinsky erroneously and unwisely try to make Aurora’s crime crisis a political, partisan issue. It’s not, and real crime experts repeatedly point that out.Republicans here and across the nation are trying to tie nascent jail, bail and sentencing reforms to increased crime. To date, there is no compelling evidence linking programs that reduce bail or decrease jail time for non-violent offenses to increases in crime.

National and undisputed statistics reveal that states and cities that have adopted such reforms have shown increases in all kinds of crime just like those that have shunned such reforms and brag to be “tough on crime.”

Anyone who tells you differently is mistaken or dishonest.

The highest violent crime spikes in the nation have occurred in South Dakota, Montana and Kentucky, which saw astounding 60 percent hikes or higher in murder rates. While violent crime rates have risen sharply in Colorado, Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs, they’ve also skyrocketed in places like Nevada, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Ohio and Kansas.

What experts in crime and behavior know for certain is that no one knows for certain what’s causing the crisis.

But experts do know what contributes to it: substance abuse, the pandemic, economic flux, gun proliferation, public safety staffing shortages, mental health crises, and a community and nation under multiple pressures.

Just as importantly, Aurora lawmakers must understand this is not just a problem in Aurora, but one that is indifferent to municipal or political boundaries.

Crime and homelessness are metroplex problems. Successfully reducing crime and homelessness demands cooperation and coordination among area governments, including the cities, the counties, the state, the schools and the federal government.

Local history has repeatedly shown that when local governments don’t work together to solve these problems, they work against each other.

For decades, Aurora and Denver police have pushed problems with drugs, prostitution, homelessness and theft back and forth across city boundaries during increased and targeted operations.

Aurora-regional leaders and elected officials should adopt most of these proposals, and ensure that data used to drive “data-driven” policies comes from credible non-political sources.

And Denver and Aurora elected officials, from the two cities and the state legislature, should create a way to work together on addressing both crime and homelessness, creating a way for other local cities and counties to join the effort.

This plan is an excellent place for Aurora to start, but it’s only a start.    

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Dean
6 months ago

 5-point? needs to be six points- say goodbye to Vanessa… .

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Dean

That would be a big mistake.

Don Black
Don Black
6 months ago

The old buzz word “data driven”, like “community policing” and “best practices”, is laughable to experienced and dedicated police professionals. Just like the afteraction reports on Denver’s crowd control fiascos are some kind of surprise to the politicans. As someone who teaches crowd control. I can tell you that the afteraction reports from many years of crowd control efforts show the same results. When they say “lessons learned”, we laugh because we know that they have never cared enough to examine the situation and certainly have never learned any lessons. Poorly trained police officers become poorly trained police politicians who are supposed to be able to direct their officers. “Data driven” has been around for at least 40 years. It sounds good to people who need a buzz word but know little about how crime works. If you rely upon the computer statistics to tell you where to concentrate your efforts, there are a number of flaws involved. First, you obviously don’t have the kind of feel for your community that you should have. It is very impersonal and ignores many of the problems that the community really cares about. Further. most of the problems with police service lie with some basic flaws in how police organizations are organized and deployed. Police departments have long been organized along the same lines for the cheapest possible service. The structures are not creative, flexible, and responsive to the problems in the neighborhoods. Sure, the police can organize some special teams and address a problem in a certain area. Meanwhile, the rest of your city is left to go to hell. I presented a plan to the City Auditor long ago and his comment was “Wow, this is the only long range plan we have ever seen out of the police department”. Police departments are plagued with a succession of shiny politician chiefs who never gave police work much thought. They know that they just have to talk nice and keep the status quo. I hear rumors that the city actually is going to get rid of Chief Wilson. I am surprised because they generally never deal with incompetent chiefs. Aurora PD is the result of a long series of chiefs who were politically correct but lacking in ethics and competence. Those chiefs have fostered top staffs with nasty attitudes. A friend who just retired from APD was sharing his expectations that the City would do the same silly “nationwide search” for another shiny police politician. As a retired lieutenant, I just shake my head when I listen to the top three candidates spouting the same politically correct generalities. Ask them what they have learned about what needs to be changed in how we do police work. Ask them to show where they stood up during their careers to challenge the status quo. Ask them to show how they pushed for more and better training. Ask them to show where they actually stood for something other than their shiny careers. Let me give you an example of the collective cowardice exhibited by those in charge in law enforcement. The police reform bill that was passed here in Colorado, as a hysterical response to George Floyd, is badly flawed and has crippled the police. You are not hearing a peep out of the leaders in law enforcement. I have offered to debate anyone about the bill. Silence. Here we have one of the primary reasons that a flood of good officers left the job and no one will discuss it. Here we have one of the reasons that we have to tell prospective officers that we do not recommend that they go into law enforcement and no one will talk about it. It doesn’t matter how many officers you recruit if they are afraid to do their jobs. Officers are being prosecuted for simply putting their arm around someone’s neck. I can watch female high school wrestlers do it routinely. My grandsons do it regularly. The absurdities abound. The police reform bill words the chokehold in such a way that it could include putting your weight on someone in such away that it makes it hard for them to breathe. First, let me explain that in a struggle, I don’t want you to be able to breathe. Jujitsu and wrestling have long focused on putting weight on the opponent to make it hard for them to breathe and fight. Now, after I get you handcuffed, then I want to get you on your side and pay close attention to your breathing and medical needs. Admittedly, it is difficult to argue for law enforcement when poorly trained and poorly supervised officers keep doing stupid things. Those shiny, politically acceptable chiefs are not going to fix things down at the grass roots level. They do not have the respect or credibility with the officers. The officers know that for the most part, they are going to feed you more buzz words like the politicians do. They also realize that the politician chiefs are weak by nature and will not stand up. Hence, the silence about the police reform bill and the hysterical systemic racism theme. Until we return to a demand for personal accountability, we will suffer with extreme problems with crime. Protecting criminals from their actions is similar to ignoring Putin’s gradually increasing aggressions. Most of the left’s ideas on crime are upside down and help those who transgress while sacrificing the rights of the public as a whole. Many ideas have merit in the planned response. Obviously, having real mental health resources available is a leap forward. Law enforcement did not decide to handle mental health by themselves. It was thrust upon law enforcement as a cheap alternative. The requirement for body cameras is positive for law enforcement. The problem with the body cameras is that uninformed prosecutors and the public are making judgments out of ignorance. “Oh, my god, he put his knee on someone’s neck in a struggle”. I invite you to get involved in many struggles during a career with very little training. As someone who has studied martial arts for fifty years, taught use of force, and been in many struggles, I am dismayed at the armchair judgments being made. Start putting the responsibility on the person who decided to fight the police. There is much more to say, but I realize the futility of my input. A Scythian proverb from 600 AD goes, “Wise men argue causes…fools decide them”.

Nilta
Nilta
6 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

“Officers are being prosecuted for simply putting their arm around someone’s neck.”

I’m glad the department IS ignoring your advice.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Nilta

Some people are given to hyperbole.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

We already know you to be angry, vengeful and politically motivated and to do a lot of arguing. And you always present yourself as knowing everything due to your personal experience. That’s your ego. You seem surprised that no one is eager to take on a person such as yourself. This is not a good position to be in when trying to make a point. But you did, at least, latch onto the words and phrases that this report uses to baffle people, while at the same time sound good. People who are good at postulation often do that. And nothing ever gets done. I don’t expect a whole lot to happen as a result of all these words by a couple of council persons.

NIck Campbell
NIck Campbell
6 months ago

Possible reasons for a spike in crime, hmmm. How about sanctuary state and city, 10% inflation, or runaway housing prices to name a few. Do we have any Soros backed prosecutors? It’s nice to see they’re not just throwing money at it to study the cause or if you’re Kamala, the root cause.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago
Reply to  NIck Campbell

When they have no one to blame, they simply blame Soros. But what you mention are some of the failures of our society for which we all bear part of the blame. These problems started long ago and have been developing and worsening over time. Their solution is to be found deep in the “roots,” but no one seems really interested in attacking them at their source. We just offer a lot of lip service and come up with good-sounding “plans,” which never come to fruition because we sit around arguing and laying blame. Personally, I expect all of this to come to a head soon, as we, as a society, cannot continue to endure the agony.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
6 months ago

I, for one, will be very interested to see how the Council plans to  “Ensure that Aurora’s police department is fully staffed, expertly trained and provided the resources they need to protect themselves and the public.” People simply don’t want to be police officers today, and no one can make them. And are we, the citizens, willing to tax ourselves to provide the proper compensation to officers? Probably not. It’s easier to complain, blame, and come up with “plans.”