EDITORIAL: Get real — political hysteria only makes addressing Colorado crime harder

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Three people were shot during school hours in the parking lot of Hinkley High School, Nov. 19, 2021, just days after an earlier shooting near Aurora Central High School in an adjacent park.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

 

Aurora and Colorado have two serious quandaries: crime — and politicized hysteria about crime.

Like much of the nation, and almost every large urban area in the country, the incidence of violence, gun violence and other crimes has been on a steady climb. Some crimes, like shootings, have boiled over into what have become almost daily events in Aurora and across the Denver area.

Just as bad as the reports that violence — and especially gun violence — is on a sustained rise is the news that there is no easy or fast remedy to the problem.

Anyone who tells you differently is either uninformed or dishonest.

Among those looking to leverage a public crisis for political gain is former Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.

Since being term limited out of his 18th Judicial District office at the beginning of last year, after eight years on the job, Brauchler has become a Republican activist, wielding a regular spot on a local right-wing radio talk show and in the Denver Post to promote a political party that has lost huge partisan ground locally and across the state over the past decade.

He frequently uses his media spots to point out that crime and gun violence are a critical problem in Colorado and falsely assign blame to Democrats and their policies.

Savvy residents and voters should dismiss Brauchler’s rants for the political nonsense they are.

He touts a December “study” he and former Denver DA Mitch Morrissey collaborated on for the right-leaning Common Sense Institute that fails to tie evolving policies focusing on sentencing and bail reform with spikes in all kinds of crime.

While no one disagrees that a rise in crime is a serious problem, real experts point to numerous reasons why different kinds of crime have increased here, across the state and across the nation — including states that have not begun meaningful sentencing or bail reform.

Republican lock-hold states such as South Dakota, Alaska, Tennessee, Arizona and Missouri have consistently recorded top per-capita crime rates. Texas and California, both suffering high incidents of all kinds of crime, have virtually the same rate of crime and probably the most contrasting criminal justice systems and philosophies.

In his treatises, Brauchler fails to point out that he was head of one of the largest judicial districts in the state as crime rates began to soar.

Brauchler’s not alone in his efforts to make addressing crime a partisan battle, he’s just at the front of the parade. Others are working to widen Colorado’s partisan schism at a time when unity is critical to moving the needle in the opposite direction.

The biggest mistake Brauchler and other Republicans make is dismissing the fact that the largest increase in all kinds of crimes has coincided with the pandemic. Even then, real experts caution about how little is known, too little to pin blanket causes.

But as more credible research and information becomes available, equally credible and consequential plans to address the crisis can be reviewed and implemented.

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis, regional and statewide Democrats, and Republicans announced plans to focus more than $100 million on regional and local programs addressing the spike in crime. 

While it’s unclear what will come of a spending proposal that essentially could allow local communities to decide how best to address the problem, there are three consistent messages surfacing across the state:

• Proposed solutions must be data driven.

• Mental illness, including addiction, is an undeniable problem crossing all demographics and types of crime demanding action.

• While boosting police resources and targeted policing are critical, neither Aurora nor anywhere can “police their way out” of the crime wave, as Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson and others have pointed out.

Joining the call for “data-driven” analysis and proposals in Aurora are newly-elected council members Dustin Zvonek and Danielle Jurinsky. Both penned an essay for The Sentinel last week, accurately assessing that addressing crime must be a priority, and pointing out that both the problem and the solutions are complicated, must hinge on reliable data and will certainly be varied.

The key word here is “data.” Jurinsky just the week before took to the radio airwaves on a local right-wing talk show claiming that “if you live in Aurora, you’re not safe.” She went on a bizarre rant making wild and unproven accusations about police and others that undermined the credibility needed by officials to lead on this issue.

Data can’t come from politicized marketing efforts like Brauchler’s and GOP partisans. It has to come from trained, credible experts in Aurora, the state and the nation. If Aurora, or Colorado, can’t get clear answers to vital questions, that’s where resources need to go.

It’s unclear what effect nascent sentencing and bail reforms have had on crimes, and Colorado needs to find out how changes can impact recidivism and how other factors — such as housing costs, addiction, employment and mental illness — also affect repeat offenders.

That takes credible data and credible, dependable leaders managing it toward solutions. 

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Publius
Publius
7 months ago

One man’s hysteria is another’s call to action just as one editorial boards apologist screed is another’s thinly veiled attempt to try to pass off partisanship as neutrality.

GeneD
7 months ago
Reply to  Publius

Ad hominem attacks are the weakest form of rhetoric. What is your opinion or counter argument regarding the article?

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

Thank you. But he is a perfect example of why the problem won’t be solved while blaming everyone else.

Last edited 7 months ago by Joe Felice
Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Said the guy who blames the right for everything even when his side is running the show.

Publius
Publius
7 months ago
Reply to  GeneD

My opinion is that the author is correct when he states: “ Others are working to widen Colorado’s partisan schism at a time when unity is critical to moving the needle in the opposite direction.” I am critical of the author because in this and every editorial of his I read he is among the leaders in the partisan schism. He goes out of his way to denigrate those who do not share his views and then wonders why they will not come around to his way of thinking. He knows better, he sees the problem, yet he does not see he is a carrier of that problem. Me, I advocate both sides of the chasm putting aside blame and rancor and finding areas of commonality. I advocate trying to find something in those we disagree with of worth. I have never seen a person berate another into a change of viewpoint. All that does is retrench and anger folks more. I have seen some respond positively, however, to welcoming dialog which seeks commonality and does so congenially.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago
Reply to  Publius

And your ranting does nothing to help the problems, either.

Don Black
Don Black
7 months ago

As someone who regularly tracked crime as part of my job in the Aurora Police Department, let me address the whole data driven approach. When I worked as a supervisor in different units, like PAR, DART, and the Burglary detail, I closely watched crime trends. As a detective, I tried to get the patrol captain to have patrol watch a location where I predicted a burglary would occur during a two hour span on a particular Friday. He told me that I did not have enough of a trend. The burglary occurred as I predicted. I asked him to have patrol watch the adjacent house during the next Friday night. He again told me that I did not have enough of a trend. The burglary occurred again as I had predicted. I was busy recovering victims” property from a burglar who had committed 80 burglaries. I did not have time to watch the homes that were about to be burglarized. So, again, let us talk data. First, if you have to rely upon data, you don’t know your city. That is to be expected with the idea that we are efficient, computer driven professionals. It all sounds very professional. It is, however, very impersonal and not really effective. Data means that you are not looking hard at the individual pieces of information that solve crimes and get lost property back. In the past, police officers were showing up to take reports from the victims and learn about the conditions in the neighborhood. When our crime analyst would tell us that there was a problem in a certain area, we would say “Gee, no kidding”. We knew well where the problems were. Now, in our professional, efficient model, citizens make a report online. The officers never see or hear about the problems. The crime analyst may tell the officers about a problem, but it is all very impersonal and does not include all of the insights gained from talking to victims. Data never made me feel like I had to really go after something. Seeing real suffering from victims did. And, if I saw a possible solution on my own, I was committed. Yes, we are more efficient . We are also less effective and less committed. It means something when you face the victims and learn about the problems. As part of that, people understand that the police don’t really do anything about crime. They, therefore, don’t report crime. Listen to the comments citizens make online about reporting to the police. So, your data is wrong from the start. Then, there is the professional dishonesty that the public doesn’t know about. A common police chief trick that was prevalent back east was to reclassify crimes. Our chief who came from from back east had us doing that for awhile. A burglary is reclassified as something lesser, like damage property or trespass. It makes the crime stats look better for that chief. So, your data is a lie. Data driven sounds very professional. Politicians speak in what I call “glittering generalities”. The public has no idea that that means that they don’t understand the specifics. They don’t take the time to talk to people who do know the specifics. If they talk to anyone, it is another politician, the chief. The chief’s job is to protect his/her career and the reputation of the city. The comments from the chiefs that we can’t police our way out of crime are a convenient half truth. Yes, there is far more to it. However, to give yourself an excuse from the start speaks poorly of those in charge and their commitment. I worked with many chiefs. I understood well that they cared little about the suffering of the community. Behind closed doors, they would often admit it. Chiefs are picked due to their spotless records they have accomplished by never standing for anything and due to their sociopath ability to fit in. A city manager wants a politically correct person who won’t disagree. Actual commitment, as opposed to faked commitment, is not considered. Anyway, feel comforted that politicians will continue to dazzle you with their progressive ideas and demonstrated concern.

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
7 months ago
Reply to  Don Black

No amount of data can replace cops who know the people they police well, and detectives with good CIs.

Without those assets, policing is purely hit and miss.

I also think policing without partners – two cops to a car – is an extremely stupid practice.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago

Again spot on. As soon as ANY issue is made political, ALL hope of resolution is lost. This is just one example. Carry on and solve nothing.

Don Black
Don Black
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

I am saying that we need to change things. Politicians deal with creating the illusion that they are doing something. They never get down and find long term solutions. Picking politically correct politician chiefs doesn’t;t change things. Using the same make believe solutions doesn’t change things.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
7 months ago

Crime, especially GUN violence, is an ever-increasing problem and has been for years. Laying blame on anyone who currently holds office is disingenuous, albeit convenient and politically expedient. The current problem had its infancy many years ago and has been cultivated along the way by people who failed to realize our social woes would lead to all of it. I guess one could say “We made our beds, now we must lie in them.”

But making social issues political and laying blame on others will not solve anything. In fact, they will guarantee that we never reach consensus or resolution. But doing so makes for good talk-radio and FOXNews fodder and keeps the rabble roused. No one does that better than George Brauchler, both during his tenure in office and now.

And I take note that folks fail to mention the role of GUNS in all of this. Our licentious attitude towards them and our failure to control access to them by those who should not have them are, in large part, resulting in the crime rate we now lament. All the while, there are still those who advocate that the solution is even-more GUNS.

It is amazing we can’t see these things and thereby guarantee that the problem will get even worse.

Debra MacKillop
Debra MacKillop
7 months ago

Brauchler tries to weaponize everything for his own political purpose. Always has.