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Colorado sees jump in crime, national crime rates still dropping

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP October 19, 2018

How safe are we in America? How about in Colorado? Reports on the crime rates were just released by the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Colorado saw increases in both violent crimes and property offenses, the nationwide rates actually dropped, on average.

The crime rate is of crucial importance in criminal justice. When people perceive the crime rate to be high, they often argue for increased enforcement efforts, harsher laws and tougher sentences. These punitive measures are arguably ineffective and have been shown to disproportionately affect the poor and minorities. When people perceive the crime rate as low, they’re often more open to less punitive reforms.

Therefore, it is important to remember that crime rates remain at historic lows nationwide. Property crime, violent crime and homicide peaked in the early 1990s and have dropped substantially since then:

  • Property crime – down 54 percent from peak
  • Violent crime – down 46.5 percent from peak
  • Homicide – down 45.9 percent from peak

Nationally, these rates also dropped last year. Property crime was down 3.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, violent crime was down 1 percent and homicide was down 1.9 percent. The last time crime rates were this low was in 1967.

That said, Colorado’s violent crime rate jumped by 25 percent between 2013 and 2017, and property offenses were also up. Those statistics are definitely concerning.

The Vera Institute of Justice dug into the FBI’s data, analyzing 285 major cities and classifying them as small, medium, large or very large.

For property crimes, Vera found a small decrease, on average, for all city sizes, continuing a long-term reduction since the late 1980s. There was wide variation among the individual cities, but the number that saw decreases far outweighed the number that experienced increases in property crime.

Vera noted similar results in the violent crime rate, with declines in all but large cities, where the rate increased slightly in 2017. However, even in large cities the violent crime rate was at or near its lowest value in over 30 years. Moreover, there were far more cities experiencing decreases or static results than there were experiencing increases.

Likewise, the homicide rate remained near a three-decade low despite some slight increases in large and small cities. Again, the number of cities where decreases occurred was far greater than the number of cities where increases occurred.

Here in Colorado, work needs to be done to determine the cause of the increase since 2013 and how to bring the rate back down. Overall, however, Americans live in a period of nearly unprecedented safety.