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Aurora's mandatory minimum 3-day sentence for retail theft likely to pass

The ordinance applies only to shoplifters who steal items worth $300+
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Posted at 5:43 PM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-14 14:21:50-04

AURORA, Colo. — Along Havana Street in Aurora, there's a growing concern about shoplifters.

"In the last year and a half, two years, it's gotten a lot worse," Heirlooms Antique Mall owner Scott Davenport said.

A rise in theft has forced him to install more cameras and add alarms to his cases.

"We're not like the big retail box stores. I was amazed at what they said their theft numbers were. I can't even imagine what that's like," he said.

It's why he's in favor of a proposed citywide ordinance that would require shoplifters who steal more than $300 in items to spend a mandatory minimum of three days in jail, which is as long as Aurora's jail is allowed to hold someone.

"There's a lot of big box retailers along the Havana [Business Improvement District] that talk about their stores in that location being among their most profitable in the country but also among their highest hit for retail theft," Aurora City Councilmember Dustin Zvonek said.

Zvonek was one of five other council members who voted in favor of the ordinance Monday night. He worries if the city doesn't do something, businesses will leave.

"If retailers don't want to be here because they're worried about retail theft, that's a big problem for us," he said.

But Councilmember Juan Marcano, one of the three votes against the proposal, says a stay in jail won't solve the root of the problem.

"We should ensure that we're holding folks accountable and changing the behavior of folks who are committing offenses in our city, and this is not going to really do either," he said.

Both Marcano and Mayor Mike Coffman expressed concern at Monday night's meeting about what holding someone for three days will cost the city. The ordinance's sponsor, Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky, was quick to shut those concerns down.

"This ordinance is about the victims, about the business owners in this city, and I refuse to let this ordinance get hijacked to talk about the criminals," she said at the meeting. "Whatever the cost is for somebody to sit in our jail for three days, I guarantee you, is probably minimal."

Davenport agrees the proposed ordinance won't be a cure-all but is a step in the right direction to reducing theft.

"People make excuses why people steal and different things. This is not anything that people need, so this is just stealing for greed or whatever," he said.

According to data from Aurora police, the number of shoplifting reports appears to be trending downward:

  • 2019 – 426
  • 2020 – 354
  • 2021 – 344
  • 2022 – 259

A reason for the decline may be because businesses don't think reporting certain shoplifters is worth it.

"If there was not a weapon involved, there wasn't an assault involved, they just wouldn't report it because there was no certainty of penalty," Zvonek said.

In an interview with Denver7 in-depth producer Stephen McNelis, defense attorney Jeffrey Wolf said the three-day sentence likely won't have much impact.

"I think it could deter the impulse people because, you know, sometimes it's just the thrill of it that has somebody doing it. And I think if they know they could get three days in jail, I think it might be a little bit different for them than if they're just going to get a ticket. But for the majority of people who are actually stealing out of necessity, I don't think it's going to cross their mind," he said.

Wolf also questioned the constitutionality of the ordinance and the problem it could create by sending people elsewhere to shoplift since they won't face jail time in Denver or Brighton, for example.

Council members will vote on the ordinance a second and final time in two weeks. It is expected to pass.