Mayor John Suthers joined Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman in sharing bipartisan suggestions when it comes to addressing Colorado’s rising crime. This letter first appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Gazette and Denver Post.
Letter to the Editor: Reducing Crime
Crime remains a serious issue in Colorado and we, as mayors of Colorado's three largest cities, are committed to working with the state legislature and Governor on this issue in the upcoming legislative session. Here are some commonsense bipartisan suggestions.
Update the penalties for motor vehicle theft and help the police solve a greater number of cases.
Colorado currently is in the unenviable position of having the highest car theft rate in the country. Stolen cars are often used in the commission of other serious offenses, including robberies, burglaries, and drug dealing. Colorado statutes predicate the level of the offense based on aggravating factors and the value of the stolen car. As a result, stealing a car worth less than $2,000 is often a misdemeanor, regardless of how devastating and costly the theft is to the owner. This value-based approach is inequitable and unfair to victims who own older or less expensive cars. All car thefts, other than joy riding, should be felonies.
We also need to substantially improve the solution rate for car theft. One effective way to do that is the use of technology, like license plate readers. Such technology identifies stolen cars and helps police apprehend the thieves. State assistance to help communities purchase such technology would be a great help.
Reinstate the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender for car thieves and drug dealers.
We should be deterring unlawful weapon possession by prior felons. Someone convicted of felony car theft or drug dealing can't legally pass a background check, so they should be sanctioned for possessing a weapon. Further, all possession of a weapon by previous offender crimes should be a class four felony.
Deter the use of ghost guns and personally manufactured weapons that are untraceable.
We are seeing a rise in the use of ghost guns in violent cases. Despite some stricter local regulations, Colorado's state laws do not address the problem of people circumventing background checks by purchasing non-serialized firearms or unassembled parts. Currently, these guns can be obtained by those under restraining orders or even extreme risk protection orders. Our state laws should eliminate these gaps and provide a helpful backdrop for stricter local laws.
Raise the cap for juvenile detention beds in Colorado.
Detention beds for juveniles have been drastically reduced since 2003 (when there were 479). There are now only 215 detention beds for juveniles in the entire state. The result is that juveniles who commit violent offenses or who are a danger to themselves are often discharged into an unsafe situation that seriously jeopardizes their safety and public safety. The bed cap should be raised to at least 350 and the standard for detention should give judges more discretion to hold juveniles who pose a serious public safety risk, particularly those with repeat offenses.
These are just a few ideas. There are other issues that should also be addressed, and we look forward to working with our state counterparts to address Colorado’s crime rates in a meaningful way.
Mike Coffman, Mayor of Aurora
Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver
John Suthers, Mayor of Colorado Springs