It is no longer possible for any political subset to deny the extent and gravity of Colorado’s crime problem. Data from multiple sources, national and local, inevitably points to the upward trajectory of criminal activity in the state, providing empirical insight into a very human problem.
The Common Sense Institute recently published a study that adds to this growing mountain of data, offering an analysis of the problem from the perspective of economic impacts.
The study’s lead authors, George Brauchler and Mitch Morrissey, are uniquely positioned to comment on criminal cases, having dedicated their professional lives to supporting society’s response to them as district attorneys. The partnership with CSI’s considerable economic analytical resources resulted in an article that was as uplifting as it was gloomy.
The numbers are captivating. Those about the escalating crime rate in Colorado are rather depressing, if not particularly surprising. In this space in September, I wrote about FBI crime data for 2020 that quantified what everyone intuitively realizes, that crime is on the rise in the country, and even more so in Colorado. The CSI report puts some flesh on that backbone, diving a little deeper into the numbers to reveal a litany of terrifying statistics; for example, that the state’s average monthly crime rate in 2021 is 28% higher than it was ten years ago, 15% higher than in 2019.
The study focuses on the steady increase in crime over the 10-year period between 2011 and 2020. Among the grim findings: Colorado experienced the largest increase in property crime in the country in the last decade. the last decade; the state’s violent crime rate was 35% higher in 2020 than in 2011, while it increased only 3% nationally during that time; Colorado’s murder rate was 106% higher in 2020 than in 2011, rape 9% higher and assault 40%; and that Colorado had the highest motor vehicle theft rate in the country in 2020, 135% higher than in 2011, when it was below the national average – which only increased by 3% in during this period.
These are sobering numbers now, but the report’s most salient are those that quantify the cost of the persistent wave of crime. The total cost of crime in Colorado in 2020, as calculated by the authors, was more than $ 27 billion, a figure that the report says represents more than three-quarters of the $ 35 billion annual budget. government dollars. These costs are separated into tangible and intangible goods. The tangible factors are the most directly measurable: medical bills, property damage, public spending on policing, prosecution, defense, incarceration (though rarely) of perpetrators, administration of the justice system and costs associated with mental health treatment and loss of productivity for the victim. Those costs stand at $ 8.5 billion, a figure the report usefully puts into perspective by juxtaposing it to just $ 6.77 billion which is the combined market value of Denver’s five professional sports teams.
The other part of the equation is the intangible costs – the pain and suffering of the victims, the reduced quality of life, that sort of thing, which the report puts at $ 19 billion. CSI’s analytical gurus are particularly good at this sort of thing, so one is reluctant to question their formulations; but it reminds me of stories like this one from the early 1970s in New York, the heartbreaking tale of the elderly husband and wife who, after living a second time in the apartment they lived in for 40 years, have been smashed and being robbed and tortured by their attackers, decided that life in the Big Apple was not worth it and therefore gave their remaining savings to their favorite charity, left an explanatory note and hanged themselves . The sum of their savings was about $ 23,000, but really, how do you quantify it precisely?
There is much more to the report, worth reading, including a section examining the wave of regrettable criminal justice reforms at all levels, including the causal, or at least contributory, relationship with the current increase in crime levels is hard to dismiss.
Politics alone cannot be blamed in isolation – a general decrease in societal morality, especially as endorsed by courts and judges, must certainly play a role. As the late Roger Scruton wrote, “as moral sentiment wanes, so does the desire to condemn or to suffer punishment.” But the reforms sparked by this moral indifference take us back to a dark place where an octogenarian couple may once again feel compelled to make a suicide pact in order to avoid victimization. Reforms, that is to say, which flout the very idea of a free society.
Kelly Sloan is a Denver-based political and public affairs consultant and recovering journalist.