News and Commentary

Crime Exploding In Aurora, CO, As Police Choose To ‘Walk Away’ From Potentially Violent Criminals
AURORA, CO - JUNE 27: Aurora police in full riot gear at the ready behind a police fence during a Elijah McClain protest in front of the Aurora Police department's headquarters at the Aurora Municipal Center June 27, 2020. Elijah McClain died August 30, 2019 several days after a struggle with Aurora police. Elijah became unconscious during the encounter with police August 24, 2019 and had a heart attack while being transported to a hospital. McClain died after being taken off life support. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)
Andy Cross/The Denver Post

Crime is surging in Aurora, Colorado, as police officers elect to “walk away” from calls on alleged criminals rather than get into potentially violent conflicts.

Major violent crimes in Aurora have surged 24.4% in the first nine months of 2020 compared to the same span of time last year, according to CBS4. That statistic may obscure the impact of violent crime on the community as crime plummeted after a government-mandated lockdown went into place over the coronavirus pandemic, a local police union said.

“Crime across the board is going up. We’re having a lot of problems,” Aurora City Councilman Dave Gruber said. “Aurora is open to [criminals]. … Aurora is a low-risk area and that’s a message we need to fix and we need to stop that.”

From the first nine months of 2019 to the first nine months of 2020, murders are up 72%, armed assaults are up 34.3%, and robberies were up 31%, according to an analysis of crime statistics by CBS4. At the same time, physical arrests, or arrests made without a warrant, have plummeted 44.6% since 2019.

Judy Lutkin, union president of the Aurora Police Association, blamed the high crime rates on a number of factors, including the current cultural state of the country which has emboldened criminal behavior across the U.S.

Another contributing factor is “the general trend of social justice warrior police leadership who have given up on ‘law enforcement’ as the primary mission of the police,” Lutkin said.

The union boss also blamed state Senate Bill 217, signed into law in June, that overhauled police operations with the goal of creating more police accountability. The impact has been that police officers are much less inclined to put themselves into a chaotic situation when rules governing police conduct are so strict as to make legal enforcement much more difficult and dangerous.

The bill has “profoundly changed the way police use force or interact with the public,” Lutkin said.

Patrol culture “has become almost completely reactive. We don’t look for suspicious people who are about to commit crimes anymore. Instead we stick to answering 911 calls,” she said. “On those calls, we walk away when possible.”

In early September, police were called to an apartment complex twice on a 47-year-old man with a criminal history of violent assault, drug charges, resisting arrest, and illegal behavior. Twice police left the scene without arresting the man who was alleged to have exposed himself to children, thrown a rock through a glass door, vandalized a car, and locked two people in a bedroom of the apartment he was staying in. In both instances, police left intent on getting a warrant before attempting to arrest the man.

Lutkin blamed recent cultural shifts and views of police after mass protests broke out over the death of George Floyd in May.

“As far as we can tell, we are properly executing what the public wants. If this isn’t what the public wants, they should do something about it,” she said.

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