Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report detailing the nation’s 2020 crime data this week, and the numbers, chilling though they are, are lamentably predictable.

As virtually everyone would expect, a few radical holdouts among the ACLU and their allies aside, the rate of violent crime nationwide went up between 2019 and 2020. Homicides alone increased by nearly 30% in 2020, the largest single-year spike in the 60 years since the agency began collating such data. Aggravated assault went up by around 12% last year, and the rate of all violent crimes did so by 5.6%

These are disturbing numbers, and they are not limited to the big coastal cities. The figures are even worse for Colorado, which saw its violent crime rate increase by nearly twice the national rate. In 2020 Colorado logged 433 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens, which is higher than the national average of 399. But the most salient datum is that this figure represents a 10% increase from 2019. And if that is not depressing enough, this is now the third year in row that Colorado’s violent crime rate has exceeded the national average.

It is easy to place blame for this entirely on recent state policy that effectively and simultaneously countenances crime while impeding law enforcement — easy because the connection is so blatantly and inescapably obvious. Still, there are several factors mingling and congealing to crystallize into this societal potpourri of assault, theft, rape, vandalism, and murder.

Undeniably, the most prominent single driver of this recent grim phenomenon is the mad ideological rush to what is euphemistically referred to as “police reform” or “criminal justice reform,” the maddest rush taking place in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, riots, and civil mayhem. The rallying cry, you’ll recall, was to “defund the police” — in some cases explained away as simply a proposal to redirect resources on the street away from cops and toward social workers, or mental health experts, or yogic meditators, or some such Quixotic nonsense, but in many cases taken quite literally by state legislators and city councils. Who did just that — and are now trying desperately to refund them.

Evidently social workers and yogic meditators were not particularly well equipped to deal with situations where drugs, alcohol, knives, rage, and baseball bats are all mixed together.

The trend has been, in Colorado and elsewhere around the U.S., towards making laws which are directed not at criminals, but at those who protect society from the criminals. But keeping the police from policing is only part of it. The other part is to redefine what is meant by “crime” itself. The ideological reasoning goes something like this: the laws we have in place are merely relics of our colonial past, constructs of an oppressive social hierarchy designed for the purpose of continuing the oppression of (pick your poison — class, race, gender, etc.) Therefore, we must rethink, or “reimagine” what is meant by “criminal justice”.

Unfortunately, those who beat, rob, stab, destroy, rape, and kill their way through society refuse to be reimagined away. Which is, of course, why those oppressive laws were established in the first place.

The blame does not rest solely on policy makers. The system also goes astray when the district attorney is on board with “reimagining” it. Denver DA Beth McCann, someone recently quipped, possibly runs one of the most efficient public defender’s offices in the nation. It’s getting rather difficult to get put in jail in this city, as even folks arrested for such little things as assault with a deadly weapon are as a matter of course released on personal recognizance bonds.

The cumulative effect of all of this, naturally, weighs heavy on law enforcement. It is becoming increasingly difficult for many cops to justify the risk, when the order and law they fight to maintain is held in contempt by the society that asks them to maintain it. They are leaving the job, in alarming numbers, leaving fewer on the streets where they are needed. Those that remain are barely allowed to do their jobs. And who could blame them if some, out of sheer prudence, held back when they are out there?

And yet they do still go out there and still answer each call for help, despite being at nearly as much peril from the civil system they risk their lives to protect as from those they protect it from. Is it any wonder crime is going up?

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.

Kelly Sloan is a political and public affairs consultant and a recovering journalist based in Denver.

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