EDITORIAL: Colorado Dems catch ‘tough-on-crime fever’ as car thefts soar

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This Thursday, May 21, 2020, photo shows a parked car with a broken front window after a smash-and-grab break-in (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

We all know how Colorado, California, Oregon, Oklahoma and Texas differ.

Oklahoma and Texas have become infamous as far-right bastions of conservatism. Governors and Republican-held legislatures there live and breathe “tough on crime” rhetoric and lawmaking.

Political leaders in Colorado, California and Oregon, seen as largely progressive states, question whether “tough on crime” is actually just tough on taxpayers and minorities and not much else.

But the most curious link among these states is that they all suffer the highest car-theft rates in the nation.

Lots of experts are trying to figure out why car theft has suddenly become a national obsession, with the Aurora metroplex second from the top in cities across the country.

The Aurora-Denver area reports an astounding 965 car thefts per 100,000 residents, according to a National Insurance Crime Bureau report. Only Bakersfield, Calif., reports more car thefts per capita.

While sociologists and criminologists continue to study the phenomenon, it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic is largely to blame as inspiration for the national plague of larceny.

A plethora of parked cars, while everyone went nowhere for months, made for easy picking for car thieves. And police and insurance experts say many cars are easily stolen by thieves who know car owners often leave extra car fobs in easy-to-find places, such as under the front seat, in the glove boxes and side pockets. 

It’s not just a problem of annoyance here and across the country.

Car and pick-up truck thieves are stealing about 1,000,000 cars a year, wreaking economic and practical havoc on the lives of millions of Americans.

While experts have come to understand more about why this is happening and what the effects are, police and political leaders can’t agree on what to do about it.

About a year ago, some Aurora city lawmakers thought they had the answer: Get tough on crime and car thieves.

While the effort generated a great deal of tough-talk rhetoric at city council meetings, on talk radio shows and among trolls on social media, that’s pretty much all it created.

In Aurora, lawmakers wanted to push for conflicting changes. They wanted city courts, rather than district courts, to handle car thefts. Why, was never clear. City legislators don’t run criminal trials. Judges do.

There was talk about ensuring that anyone convicted of any kind of car theft gets at least one month in jail.

City lawmakers like Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky hailed the notion as a way to drive down car thefts because car thieves would be too smart to risk spending a month cooling their heels in the county clink just to steal the 4-Runner parked on the street with an extra key fob inside the glove box.

Actually, most car thieves, and others, are smart enough to know that Aurora’s city court can’t take felony cases, and any car valued at more than $2,000 is already a felony.

Whatever the scheme, car thefts continue to rage in Aurora and across the metro area.

Now, Democrats have caught get-tough-on-car-theft fever.

Both sides of the aisle and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis are insisting that all car thefts be considered felonies, regardless of what the car is worth. And some Democrats say they like the idea of mandatory jail time for all convicted car thieves.

OK.

You don’t have to look any further than Oklahoma to see how that mandatory felony measure doesn’t do anything to discourage car thieves.

None of this means that legislators, state and local, police and prosecutors shouldn’t do something to stop the plague of car thefts. Just do something that actually makes a difference.

Since the problem is national, Congress should step in to provide research for anti-theft technology or procedures, such as digital license plates that either quit working or actually say “STOLEN” when the car is reported that way.

Some conservative local and state legislators have increasingly moved away from solid science in governing. It’s being increasingly replaced with unproven and often inaccurate assumptions based on sound bites rather than deep data dives. Pseudo-science is not science, even if it sounds like it.

These “lock-em-up” pitches are great fodder for TV newscasts, but quickly wither under closer scrutiny. It would be tragic for more politicians to follow their lead.

The problem is so serious and so pervasive that legislators are right, they need to do something. But they need to do something that works.

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Blaze
Blaze
15 days ago

If I got this right, you’re saying tough-on-crime policies–such as the ones passed by the local municipality–are proven not to work so the Democrat state legislature and the Democrat governor have decided to copy them?

Who is stupider then? Fool me once.

Bart Emanuel
Bart Emanuel
14 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

This is called virtue signaling. They pass useless laws knowing they’re good for nothing more than a headline. Nothing will fundamentally change.

I’d love to see someone try something that might actually make a difference.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
14 days ago
Reply to  Bart Emanuel

My solution has worked perfectly. I don’t own a car.

Blaze
Blaze
13 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

Let me guess, you also own no home, likely rent or live off your folks, and are on their insurance still. Your student debt (probably from pursuing a worthless liberal arts degree from a mid-tier college) exceeds your net worth. You hate Christians and Republicans. You marched for George Floyd, and are unemployed or serially out of work. You announce your pronouns, and your primary social circle is comprised of “arty” activist miscreants, medicated and angry that life is just “so hard.” And you love the weed. You may be wearing a beanie as you read this.

How close did I get? You don’t have to answer, because you’re probably a pathological liar as well.

Last edited 13 days ago by Blaze
Good Citizen
Good Citizen
13 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

I’m 68, worked harder and longer than you ever have, voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and can smell a phony conservative a mile away. You stink with the taint of the lazy and worthless that giants like Barry Goldwalter an William Buckley ran out of my party in the early sixties. You know, those triggered by the idiotic sloganering and stupid cliches that they see on television or in social media. Many of the young people that I know, many of which are my opposite politically and socially, could and do work your worthless behind into to the ground. When you are gone, no one will remember that you ever existed. That’s what happens to losers

the name is the game
the name is the game
13 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

How does it feel to get your a** kicked by an old man?

the name is the game
the name is the game
13 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

BAM!

OIP (1).jpg
GeneD
12 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

So much anger and hatred. How sad you must be. I wouldn’t want to even visit your world.

Doug
Doug
14 days ago
Reply to  Blaze

It would seem that way yeah?

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
14 days ago

Since the problem is national, Congress should step in to provide research for anti-theft technology or procedures, such as digital license plates that either quit working or actually say “STOLEN” when the car is reported that way.”

Yeah, Dave, let’s come up with some dumb technocratic “internet of things” dystopian garbage that won’t actually solve the problem, and open further avenues for all kinds of broader government abuse against innocent people, instead of actually punishing the thieves who commit the crimes.

StrongChildren
StrongChildren
9 days ago

Tech advances that make it harder to steal cars and tech advances that make it easier for police to locate a stolen car are things that I support…as long as the real root of the problem, theft, is aggressively policed and aggressively prosecuted.

Don Black
Don Black
14 days ago

The hypocrisy by all of our legislators (both liberal and conservative) is something we should expect. Politicians, including most police chiefs, know that it only has to look like they are doing something. The George Floyd death, coupled with the pandemic’s restrictions, pretty much did in enforcement of the laws. During the pandemic, there were a number of cases where the officers arrested car theft suspects in Aurora and were told by the suspects that they were wasting their time. The suspects told the officers that they were not going to be taken in by the jail. They said that they knew because they had just been released without confinement on a prior car theft. When the jail confirmed that they would be released due to Covid concerns, the suspects then told officers that they were going to go out and steal another car.

All over the country, the George Floyd death and an exaggerated sense of racial guilt has caused legislatures to enact laws that have been so restrictive that the police can no longer do their jobs. There is a move to decriminalize all manner of crimes because the arrests of black suspects are not proportionate to the population. The public has no idea what these new laws mean to enforcement. there is no one to argue the case for law enforcement. It is you the public who suffer while you blame law enforcement,ent for doing nothing.

It would seem that the public would begin to understand the hypocrisy involved in the schizophrenic way things are being approached. We want to decriminalize all the drugs and yet we are surprised when children are getting drugs or the libraries have to close because drugs are being used in a way that creates a hazard. RTD has a problem because the use blatant of all types drugs is causing a problem. We are worried about fentanyl deaths while we make it easier to bring it into the country.

There were reasons behind the laws and the manner of enforcement. The laws requiring bond were there for a reason. There were reasons the Supreme Court allowed reasonable suspicion stops. Let us look at some of the silly things being done. In New York, if an officer falls on a suspect he is fighting, he can be criminally charged, even if it is unintentional. In Washington state, the officers can no longer stop someone unless the officers have probable cause. That means that the suspect can be running from your murder or your child’s rape and I cannot say that I have enough to arrest, I cannot even stop a suspect who generally fits the description. Someone has to point out the suspect and tell you that that is definitely the guy they saw do it. If you told me that it was white guy with a cowboy hat in a green car, that would not be enough to stop the suspect. That means, as soon as a criminal gets a block away from his crime, he is pretty much safe from being stopped by the police., In Chicago, they have placed limits on chasing someone on foot, because too often the suspect has resisted and been hurt. In Denver, we want to legalize jaywalking because too many people of color get charged. Our knee jerk police reform bill here in Colorado (passed in record time with no real police input), has made policing dangerous for the police. The vague guidelines in the law make it difficult for officers to do their jobs. Police administrators, attorneys, and the legislature cannot tell you what the law means. Force is defined as “any technique or tactic”. Just touching someone is a use of force. Force is allowed only as minimum necessary force (who decides that?) in cases where the officer is making an arrest, preventing an escape or protecting himself or someone else from injury. So, if you don’t want to move when rioting is occurring, or you don’t want to listen to an officer’s commands in the middle of a domestic dispute, you don’t have to. If you don’t want got get out of an officer’s way while he is trying to get you out of the way for the fire department, you don’t have to. If he touches you, he has violated the law. If the officer puts any type of pressure on you (not your throat) during a struggle, he potentially can be charged under the definition of the chokehold. There are huge flaws in the law while it moves to punish the officers. Officers around the country are being criminally charged in cases where it is not appropriate.

None of this is lost on the police officers. Numerous officers I know have told me that they are getting out of police work as soon as they can. A couple officers I know from other departments told me of Aurora officers standing by and refusing to help while they were involved in a struggle with a suspect. They have been told not to touch anyone because it is a use of force. Plate readers on Colfax go off when a stolen car goes by. Officers have routinely been ignoring the fact that stolen vehicles are driving down Colfax. It is too dangerous to stop or chase anyone. If the suspect resists and he is a minority, the officer risks everything.

All of these trends in the media and by the legislature are not lost on the criminals. Their chances of being stopped are minimal. As I drive around, I see numerous vehicles with plates that have been expired for a long time. They are not being stopped. With no enforcement, why would I be worried about stealing a car?

The legislature drove thousands of officers out of law enforcement with their police reform bill. Now, for appearances, they want to make it appear that they are concerned about crime. It is not the severity of the punishment that is a major deterrence, it is the certainty of being caught and punished. There is no certainty now.

Council person Marcano has made it clear that he believes that the police do not deter crime. From long experience with criminals, I have to differ. But, it fits his social justice narrative. In Vietnam, I knew that a few of my soldiers (good American boys) would kill innocent civilians if I was not there to prevent it. In police work, I knew that a few officers would do illegal or improper things if I ws not there to oversee. Without the chance of consequences, it is human nature for some people (of all races, ethnicity, or religions) to take advantage of the lack of oversight.

So, the legislature will continue to act like they are concerned when they have actually caused many of our problems. The public will not know the difference because arguments like mine are confined to venues like this. The liberal media makes sure that no one who knows anything will be given a forum. Basically, you and I are subject to the whims of politicians who know or really care little. Conservative politicians know little about the real effects of the legislation and are not capable of effectively questioning anything.

The dance will continue. they are counting on the fact that you don’t know anything and are too busy to care.

Blaze
Blaze
14 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

Mr. Black, some of us appreciate your “lived experience.” (Sorry, I stole that from CM Murillo.)

You hit the nail on the head. Officers are hobbled by legislation, liberal courts, and activist public opinion. They’re outnumbered and disincentivized to put themselves, their life savings, and their families at risk. So, the criminals thumb their noses and walk free.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
14 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

The welfare queen is once again heard from.

Don Black
Don Black
12 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

No bias there, huh?

Don Black
Don Black
12 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

Do you have anything factual or informative other than accusing everyone else of not working?

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
10 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

Sure. Facts: Your contention that you have “prevented crime” is not supported in anyway by real-world documentation and cannot be. It is, of course, possible that you or yours investigated a crime or perhaps even solved that crime. This is a worthwhile endeavor and your employers, the taxpayers, may or may not be willing to pay you to perform this function, depending on the cost of doing so. Your employers should not be willing to pay for a service that you will not and cannot perform. Since you did not work (you did not “prevent crime”), it is a fact that you have stolen the public’s money. In addition, it is a fact that the public has been double tax in reference to you and yours since they not only pay their taxes, but yours, which are removed from the salary that you have stolen from your employers. You have been and continue to be, a recipient of public welfare. Fact: Those that actually work (lay sod, fix roofs, repair HVAC system and toilets, for example) are the victims of your protection racket. It is likely that you have lived off the public for decades and it is shameful.

GeneD
12 days ago
Reply to  Don Black

Somebody get this man an editor!

Doug
Doug
14 days ago

Create a new felony. Create a new location for incarceration. Find out why these culprits are stealing. Mental health sentencing how much ?
Raise taxes.

StrongChildren
StrongChildren
14 days ago

When a car is stolen, no matter the value of the car, the family immediately suffers. They cannot drive to work, daycare, school, medical facilities, the grocery store, or grandmother’s house. That family deserves the immediate attention of the police and courts. The sooner the criminal is removed from the street and placed in jail, the sooner Colorado is safer. And I really don’t care a bit if the criminal sits in jail for 30 years. I do care a great deal about working people being able to raise their families in peace.

Don Black
Don Black
12 days ago
Reply to  StrongChildren

Amen

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
9 days ago
Reply to  StrongChildren

Explain in more detail why my tax dollars should be used to protect your property. When I owned a car, (actually 3 of them) I locked them in a garage that had an effective alarm system. The cars, in the 50 years that I owned them, were never stolen or broken into. In addition, if you were clever enough to get around the garage alarm, each car was individually alarmed. If you decided that that you wanted the cars badly enough to continue, I was quite willing to shoot you for your trouble. The police cannot and will not protect your property. If you haven’t the income to personally protect your property, that is your problem, not mine. Stop whining. Amen.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
8 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

I realize this will come as a shock to you, but not everyone in Aurora lives in a house with a garage.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
7 days ago

Not at all. Some people don’t have the financial means to purchase groceries at Whole Foods and must make do with a daily diet of McDonalds. I have made sure that I am not responsible for feeding these individuals. If they cannot afford to maintain a car, I suggest that they avoid buying one.

StrongChildren
StrongChildren
6 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

The thief is 100% to blame…not the victim.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
5 days ago
Reply to  StrongChildren

There is no need to blame anyone initially, since there absolutely nothing the police can do or have ever done to prevent an event from happening. Some members of the police department are charged with investigating crime, a worthwhile occupation, that the public may or may not be willing to subsidize, depending on its cost. Blame and charges occur when the crime is solved. It is however relevant to point out that someone who refuses to protect his own property in a reasonable and prudent manner may be consider negligent and perhaps stupid in the extreme.

StrongChildren
StrongChildren
6 days ago
Reply to  Good Citizen

Why should our tax dollars be used to prevent theft of personal property? Is that really your question?!?
Mom is carjacked while filling up her car at the gas station.
Construction worker living in an apartment building (without gates or garage) has their car (and all their tools) stolen while they are sleeping.
Family leaves for an out-of-town wedding and organized criminals enter their home and get away with valuables in under 3 minutes.
Teenager is attacked at the bus stop and has his money and headphones stolen.

Good Citizen
Good Citizen
5 days ago
Reply to  StrongChildren

You are mistaken, those crimes are not prevented by the police. There are absolutely no statistics to indicate this is so, since it is impossible to do so. There is and never has been any definitive connection between police activity and a reduction in crime. Crime statistics go up and down and many times have been reduced when police activity and budgets have fallen. Some of these crimes are investigated by the police and some of these crimes are solved by the police. Taxpayers may or may not be willing to pay have these crimes investigated and solved, depending on the cost of doing so. They are, however, required to pay for a non-existent service, the prevention of crime by the police. I am sure you understand the difference in these two functions.