EDITORIAL: More cops can only respond to, not effectively prevent the current crime wave


The problem at Aurora City Hall is that some city leaders continue to misunderstand that crime is mostly a symptom of societal ills and not the problem itself.

That long-standing dilemma was made apparent Monday night when Mayor Mike Coffman abruptly marshaled Police Chief Vanessa Wilson in front of the city council to explain what she’s doing about so many recent shootings.

Like every other police department in the metro area and across the nation, she said her department is sending officers out to respond to the almost daily bloodshed.

But what a solid faction of city council expects is for Wilson and Aurora police to prevent the shootings.

In the uncomplicated world of far-right political philosophy, the situation calls for more cops making more stops and stopping crime before it occurs.

In reality, it’s never happened that way and it doesn’t happen like that now.

“I cannot solve the crime problem,” Wilson told city council members pushing for more police effort to net less crime. “I need everyone to help.”

What Wilson was referring to is the reality that crime, like people, is complicated. Even the same crime — shooting someone — is committed for vastly different reasons, by vastly different people under vastly different circumstances.

Wilson said that as for the spate of recent shootings, burglaries and other crimes, there is no quick fix, and police alone cannot change it.

In fact, police are the least efficient way to prevent crime. Endless studies over decades have repeatedly made clear that drug abuse and addiction, gangs, child neglect and abuse, mental illness, financial crisis, poverty, education and plain human greed are what drive the rate of everything from murder to mundane forms of mayhem.

It doesn’t mean that a strong police present can’t deter some crime, but it doesn’t stop it. In fact, a commonly accepted police tactic is to concentrate police resources in crime “hot spots,” a tried and true way to tamp down a problem, temporarily. That effort is hampered by a steady drain of police to other agencies and out of the profession altogether. Aurora’s not alone in facing a hiring shortage, but it has felt the impact even harder than other local agencies.

What Wilson’s getting at — and some city lawmakers can’t grasp or won’t accept — is that Aurora, like Denver and everywhere else, must address critical problems of homelessness, gun proliferation and access, truancy, glorification of violence in the media, child neglect, extreme poverty and food insecurity, drug addiction, housing costs, living wage, family violence, child care, higher education and access to mental health treatment.

Wilson and other city leaders are on the right track in finding ways to use differently trained “officers” — not necessarily police officers — to respond to different kinds of calls for help.

Ensuring police are like Wilson, aware of how people end up committing crimes, is a critical part of law enforcement, not a liability, as some city lawmakers suggest.

Aurora residents “don’t wanna be woke, they wanna be safe,” Councilmember Marsha Berzins told Wilson during the briefing.

If “woke” means bothered with the facts, it would be criminal in and of itself to hide the truth from the public, that crime is the result of what too many of us don’t want to be bothered with. 

People are not genetically wired to become Crips or Bloods. We recruit children into lives of crime by ignoring problems with gangs, drugs, family abuse and education. And then we expect police to check the result of our societal indifference.

Some members of Aurora City Council blame police attrition on the local, state and national push for police reform, ensuring that police act without prejudice and are accountable to the public for clearcut mistakes, malfeasance and shortcomings.

Any officer that leaves Aurora or the police profession because they must be, by law, transparent and accountable for everything they do while on duty best serves the public by checking out. And police who courageously choose to serve all of the public fairly, equitably and compassionately should be financially rewarded and publicly lauded for what is often a boring, aggravating and dangerous and thankless job.

This doesn’t mean that hard-working, busy and often overwhelmed families have to set out to feed the hungry, house the homeless and make sure every child does their homework. It means that we all must ensure leaders understand those problems must be addressed to reduce crime so we don’t need armies of police to show up after the fact. 




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2 months ago

More cops stopping crime before it occurs absolutely works. Broken windows policing works. It worked in the cesspool that was Times Square NYC. Stop-and-frisk works. Cracking down on crime works. The indefensible notion that non-criminals are forced into lives of crime is laughable. They are not victims, they are opportunists. No matter how poor, people are not compelled to criminal activity.

2 months ago

I also noticed in Perry’s list of afflictions, he studiously side-stepped the cultural pathology of deadbeat dads and liberal entitlements replacing fathers to the point where three out of every four “baby mamas” are the only parent in the home — and on public assistance.

The sad reality is, the majority of those committing the most violent crime are young black male children who think they are men. And have no one to show them otherwise. It’s a parenting problem, but no one seems to want accountability for that.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

I was waiting for you to make this political. In so doing, you solved the problem. Good for you. Blaming always works to solve every problem.

I once heard an Episcopal bishop say that everything bad is the result of giving women the right to vote. Similar to your screed.

You will never convince Americans that this all the fault of liberals. Our country and its courts have been under republican control at various times, and yet, the problems have continued unabated.

1 month ago

I resent the disrespect for women caring for their children who require public assistance. They deserve support for raising American children. It is in everyone’s best interest that they are fed, have medical care and get an education. If you don’t agree with assisting them directly then by all means raise the minimum wage and equality for both women and minorities and give them medical benefits so these women can afford to care for their families themselves while doing essential work. Why should the CEO’s make excessive amounts of money and avoid taxes when their essential workers pay taxes and are without healthcare benefits?

2 months ago

By the way, Sentinel board, I see your strategy of holding comments until interest in your story has diminished, and then posting it, if at all. Cheap way of promoting your bias. Little wonder you are going underwater.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

“. . . a symptom of societal ills and not the problem itself.” Once again, nailed it. When we defunded social programs, such as mental health and addiction prevention, we put this paradigm in motion. Of course, it was aided and abetted in no-small part by the NRA’s push to make sure every American was fearful and had a gun. And the failure of the family unit and schools played a role, as well.

Police don’t stop crime. They are supposed to arrest criminals after the fact and bring them to justice (not execute them on the spot). But our so-called “justice” system is similarly broken, from the courts down to the prisons and the parole system. We do not have enough space to house all the criminals, but we already have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. And “house” is the correct word, because our penal system does not rehabilitate anyone. Re-offending and recidivism are both at nearly 100%.

But we are America. We have it all figured out and are the shining example for the world to follow. Whatever.

In the end, ego and greed are largely responsible, and we do both better than anyone.