The crime wave crashing across Colorado is a serious challenge facing communities in nearly every corner of our state. In Aurora, we put forward the Aurora Action Plan, a comprehensive set of strategies aimed at addressing the rise in crime. Our plan calls for fully staffing and fully funding our police department, a homeless camping ban, and reinstating programs that effectively address youth gang violence.
But there is only so much we can do on our own. We desperately need state lawmakers to act, and to act now.
To make each of our communities’ safe places to live, work, and raise families, the Colorado General Assembly must tackle several serious issues that only it is empowered to address.
First and foremost, the General Assembly must reform personal recognizance bonds. Damning investigations from CBS4 and KMGH Channel 7 found that thousands of criminals, including those charged with violent crimes, are being released without having to post bond. Huge numbers of them do not return to court.
We cannot release violent criminals back into our community based on little more than a pinky-promise to show up. Legislation was recently introduced to correct this grievous wrong. Legislative Democrats promptly killed the bill. That is unacceptable.
On the topic of violent criminals, the General Assembly also must act to stop letting violent criminals out of prison early on parole. There should be no early parole for violent offenders, plain and simple. Parole should be reserved for non-violent offenses only.
Third, the General Assembly must close the loophole that allows tens of thousands of convicted felons to possess guns in our neighborhoods. Thanks to flawed legislation passed just last year, drug dealers and car thieves convicted of felonies are now allowed to carry guns under Colorado law. With our rapid rise in fentanyl deaths, and Colorado leading every other state in car thefts, allowing these dangerous criminals access to guns is makes no sense. It is dangerous.
Speaking of fentanyl and bad laws which hurt public safety in Colorado, the General Assembly must fix the heinous law they passed in 2019, which reduced the possession of up to 4 grams of fentanyl from a felony down to a misdemeanor. That amount of fentanyl is enough to literally kill thousands of Coloradans – in no universe should that be the same level offense as shoplifting. Since 2015, fentanyl deaths in Colorado have increased more than 1,000%. This is a crisis that demands immediate and serious corrective action, not political grandstanding that fails to address the real problem.
Finally, the General Assembly needs to work to support our police across the state. The near-constant cries from out-of-touch politicians and activists to “defund the police” has caused serious harm, with officer morale plunging and police departments across the state facing severe staffing shortages as a result.
In Aurora, we have lost record numbers of officers over the past 2 years and have struggled to rebuild our police force to adequately meet the growing needs of a community desperate to be safe from surging crime. Police departments across the Denver metro area are facing dire staffing shortages.
It is not just the public attacks on police that have depressed department ranks, but the stripping of qualified immunity from police in the name of reform. While we clearly need reform and should never hesitate to hold police accountable for misconduct, outright stripping of qualified immunity has made officers fearful of doing their jobs proactively, lest they be personally sued into poverty.
We can have meaningful reform without decimating the ranks of our police departments. The state General Assembly needs to strike that appropriate balance.
In Aurora, we will continue to do everything in our power to make our city the safest place to live in Colorado, but we cannot do it alone. We have limited powers. We do not write the state’s laws; state lawmakers do.
Colorado’s offender-friendly laws must change if we are going to stem the tide of the crime wave crashing across our communities.
Dustin Zvonek, of Aurora, is a member of the Aurora City Council.
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