AURORA, Colo. -- There have been many side effects of the pandemic, and one of them is more opportunity for crime. Aurora is seeing a huge bump in crime compared to 2020, while also losing officers at an alarming rate.
“It’s concerning across the board, and I know it’s concerning for our community,” Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said.
Wilson said she is trying to combat an uptick in crime with fewer officers wanting to do the job. The Aurora Police Department (APD) said it has lost 150 officers since January 2020.
“It’s very alarming,” Wilson said. “We make sure that we’re not short staffed, but then I’m going to have to backfill with overtime.”
Wilson said she has had to reduce special assignments to staff patrol and ensure officers are able to come and help when someone calls 911.
She added that she believes there is a sense among officers of not being supported.
Aurora Mayor Pro Tem Françoise Bergan said she is concerned about the increased crime and lack of support for police.
“Police are feeling not appreciated, morale is at an all-time low,” she said. “We need to get this under control and it’s a big problem. It’s exploded. Crime has exploded.”
Crime statistics from APD show violent crime is up nearly 35% in 2021 when compared to the same time the previous year. The number of stolen cars is up 120%. Despite these numbers, arrests are down 29%.
Bergan said she hasn’t seen crime rates this high in the 20 years she’s lived in Aurora.
“Enough is enough. And I’ve heard from the residents and they want us to do something,” she said.
Wilson blamed the drop in arrests on limitations created by the pandemic.
“Jails were not accepting individuals and I can tell you that some of our prolific criminals knew this,” she said. “Thankfully, my city management has allocated some funds so that I can have foot patrols out there on overtime.”
And this isn’t just an Aurora problem. Violent crime is up statewide and so are car thefts.
Data from Denver police show murders are up 42% in the city. And the police department has said it is upping patrols in five hot spot areas to try and curb the violence.
“Unfortunately, across the nation we’re seeing a rise in violent crime,” Wilson said.
She said APD is trying to hire new officers as fast as they can, but she is also asking for the community's help.
“We’re concerned about the summer and we need everybody to be involved in the solution,” she said. “We’re trying to be more proactive because right now my officers are weary.”
Chief Wilson is scheduled to meet with city council on July 19. It will be a public meeting and an opportunity for all side to talk about solutions.