Statement on Colorado Crime Wave report

The following statement can be attributed to Deborah Richardson, ACLU of Colorado Executive Director.

The recent uptick in Colorado’s otherwise historically low crime rates is a deeply serious concern, especially for those communities most impacted by violence and harm. We owe it to all Coloradans to stay focused on proven, long-term solutions that prevent violence and crime and lift our neighborhoods up. It would make Colorado less safe, and be a grave mistake, to double down on “tough on crime” practices that have caused intergenerational harm, financial loss, and damage to Colorado’s families.

The Colorado Crime Wave “report” makes no attempt to examine the well-known leading causes of crime — including housing insecurity, job loss, the opioid epidemic, the shuttering of after-school programs — all of which likely bear a far more direct relationship to the post-recession and pandemic-era rise in some crimes than recent criminal justice reforms. This “report” makes no attempt to quantify the benefits of recent reforms that have kept working parents at their jobs and at home taking care of their families.

A “report” with deficiencies this glaringly obvious cannot be taken seriously, and indeed, it is not intended to be. Rather than genuinely examining the root causes of crime and the best solutions, it strains to reach a foregone conclusion long-held by defenders of the “tough-on-crime” status quo driven by a clear political agenda.

Colorado can lead the nation in making a shift toward long-term safety by preventing violence and interrupting cycles of harm. The ACLU of Colorado applauds Governor Jared Polis for prioritizing evidence-based solutions in his budget that have been shown in study-after-study to dramatically reduce crime, including mental health services, juvenile justice, community investments, and reentry support. All of which have improved safety without the negative consequences of aggressive, racially discriminatory policing and imprisonment.

We face a fork in the road. We can continue down the path of investing in long-term solutions to crime prevention that will create healthier and more resilient communities and address decades of racial injustice. Or risk going backwards with those who have staunchly opposed nearly every common-sense reform, regardless of the collateral damage to families, so long as it means investing money and power into the criminal legal system, rather than directly into our communities.

ACLU of Colorado believes our state has already made the right choice. We urge Coloradans to join us and our community partners in improving safety by building stronger communities, or we can listen to the fear-mongering of those who created the “tough-on-crime” excesses of the past in the first place. Those interested in sustaining their stronghold on punishment should also be able to justify to the public that the costs are not outweighing the benefits — they can’t.