Aug 10, 2022 - News

Denver police chief encourages public to help curb crime

A police chief in full uniform stands near a lectern in a dimly-lit room while addressing member of the press.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen during a press conference in December 2021. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver Police chief Paul Pazen on Tuesday urged the public to contact their elected officials with their concerns over rising crime rates.

Driving the news: Pazen said the city has recorded 60 homicides so far this year, and is on pace to not only exceed last year's total (96), but break Denver's all-time annual high of 100 homicides set in 1981.

  • The police chief said homicides are having a disproportionate impact on African American, Asian American and Latino residents, who make up 85% of murder victims in Denver.

What he's saying: Pazen blamed repeat offenders for driving up the city's crime, and said it will take the collective effort of residents, legislators, judges and prosecutors in concert with law enforcement to curb criminal activity.

He also recommended that people join neighborhood watch groups, which he said are effective at crime prevention.

  • Such civilian groups came under intense scrutiny after the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was acting as the neighborhood watch coordinator when he killed 17-year-old Martin.

The intrigue: Some of Pazen's comments at the virtual event hosted by the Denver Gazette on Tuesday echo a frequent refrain from Republicans. GOP members are criticizing Democrats for passing laws which they claim contributed to a rise in crime (the reality is much more nuanced).

  • A 2020 bill, which requires that officers wear body cameras and changes when force can be used, was cited by Republicans in connection to law enforcement departures, CPR News writes.
  • Prominent Republican George Brauchler called the spike in criminal activity a "Colorado crime tsunami," in an op-ed last year, citing a report from the conservative-leaning Common Sense Institute.
  • That phrase was parroted by state GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown on Twitter as she criticized Democrats, including Gov. Jared Polis and Attorney General Phil Weiser. "Democrats have done NOTHING to make our communities safe," Burton Brown wrote in May. "If we want to see change, we have to change who's in charge."

By the numbers: Property crimes are up 53.6% overall, while violent crime rose 21.7% in Denver, per data collected by the department and shared by Pazen. The rates measure changes between 2019 to 2021.

  • Murders have spiked 52.4%, while aggravated assaults are up 34.8% and robberies jumped 10.2%.
  • Auto thefts soared 137.5%, while burglaries are up 41.6%.
  • Denver's crime stats reflect a statewide trend. Colorado saw the fourth-highest increase in crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to CPR News.

Of note: The data found that reported rapes are down 21.7%.

  • Pazen said the department seized 2,095 guns last year, and made more arrests for auto theft than any year on record.

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