Sep 13, 2022 - News

Denver murders rose in first half of 2022 — unlike most major cities

Denver police work the scene of a Broadway shooting in which two people were killed and another was injured last December. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The number of murders in Denver increased in the first half of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, city figures show.

Why it matters: The Mile High City appears to be bucking a national trend.

  • Homicides in major U.S. cities dropped in the first half of 2022 — though total violent crime rose from the same period the year prior, Axios' Russell Contreras writes from a midyear survey of large law enforcement agencies.

By the numbers: Denver recorded 53 murders from Jan. 1 to June 30, a 23% jump from the same stretch in 2021, according to the survey.

  • Robberies increased 7%, and aggravated assaults rose 11%.
  • Year-to-date, violent crime remains 21% higher compared to the city's three-year average between 2019 and 2021, per police department data.

Threat level: With at least 62 murders year-to-date, local law enforcement leaders have warned that the city is on pace to exceed last year's total of 96 — and could potentially break its all-time annual high of 100 homicides set in 1981.

What's happening: Socioeconomic issues associated with the pandemic are fueling violence here and nationwide, crime researchers tell Axios.

  • Another factor at play, experts say, is that police departments — including in Denver — remain understaffed.

The intrigue: Violent crime this year has also plagued numerous Colorado cities outside Denver — many of which are Republican-led — like Aurora, Colorado Springs, Greeley and Pueblo.

  • Ahead of the 2022 midterms, the uptick in crime could throw a curveball at GOP candidates, who've tended to blame Democrats for laws they claim embolden criminals.

The big picture: Violent crime has risen across the country, the Major Cities Chiefs Association's survey of 70 agencies found.

  • Violent crime jumped 4.2% from Jan. 1 to June 30, compared to the same period last year. Robbery skyrocketed by nearly 12%.
  • Yes, but: Unlike Denver, homicides in the country's biggest cities decreased by 2.4%, offering hope that some of the nation's most violent crimes might be leveling off from significant increases in 2020.

What to watch: Division chief Ron Thomas has taken over the Denver Police Department since outgoing leader Paul Pazen announced his retirement, effective in October.

  • Thomas inherits an agency struggling with rising crime, staffing shortages and diminished public trust from the community. How successfully he can address these issues remains to be seen.

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