Remember that line in Gov. Jared Polis’ State of the State speech last week downplaying Colorado’s crime rate — even as he pledged to fight the good fight?
“Every person deserves a safe home and a safe community, and in three years I want Colorado to be closing in on our goal of becoming one of the top 10 safest states in the country,” Polis said in his fifth annual address to the legislature. “Right now, Colorado falls in the middle of the pack on crime rates, but that’s not good enough. We can and we must do better.”
Middle of the pack? That one drew double takes from more than a few observers in the political world — and probably plenty of rank-and-file Coloradans out in the real world.
They’ve heard about Colorado’s dubious distinction as the No. 1 state for auto theft and even may have lost a vehicle to theft themselves. They are achingly familiar with the epidemic of fentanyl deaths that has plagued our state in the wake of the legislature’s decriminalization of it and other hard drugs four years ago. They know rampant theft is out of control and that the Denver metro area set the pace among the states last year for porch piracy, too.
Colorado is hardly “middle of the pack” — and an enlightening Gazette news report using federal crime data made that clear over the weekend.
It turns out Colorado's crime numbers are much worse than the national rate, according to FBI statistics. Consider violent crime, including homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and rapes. The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System reveals the total violent crime rate for Colorado was 481 crimes per 100,000 residents in 2021. Nationwide, by contrast, the same database shows the violent crime rate was 395.7 per 100,000 people.
The gap was even wider for property crime, including burglary, larceny and vehicle theft. The FBI pegged Colorado at 3,135.4 property crimes per 100,000 — nearly 40% higher than the nationwide rate of 1,933.4 per 100,000.
If the governor’s poor choice of words in characterizing Colorado’s crime rate hinted at a failure to grasp how pressing a problem it really is, the same might be said of his decision not even to raise the subject until the home stretch of a speech that spanned more than an hour. Colorado is, indeed, awash in an epic crime wave, and if the elected officeholders at the State Capitol don’t know that by now, they really ought to step out from under the Gold Dome more often.
To the governor’s credit, as noted here last week, he called for a crackdown on rampant auto theft. In an about-face from his decision two years ago to sign a bill that in part watered down penalties for auto theft, Polis urged lawmakers this time to embrace proposals to "get tough on auto theft sentencing.”
Also encouraging was Polis’ praise in his speech for the mayors of Aurora, Colorado Springs and Denver for helping “identify tools to successfully fight crime in their communities,” and he added, “together we want the state to step up and be a more constructive partner in this work.”
“I join their recent bipartisan call to action,” he continued, “including: greater penalties for car theft, deterring unlawful weapon possession by felons, and cracking down on ghost guns, which are completely untraceable and increasingly being used to carry out violent crimes.”
He’s on the right track. But will his fellow Democrats in the legislature get on board?
Denver Gazette Editorial Board