According to new statistics, violent crime is down in major urban centers around the country with New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on pace to see the number of homicides hit the lowest of any year in the past four decades. There’s a good chance, in other word, that fewer Americans will be killed this year than were killed in 1969, despite a major economic downturn and enormous population growth.
But in Denver, violent crime is up.
As Chris Wyckoff, director of Denver’s Data Analysis Unit, noted in an interview on Monday, Colorado’s largest city is seeing an increase in thefts.
“There are more larcenies and theft of motor vehicles. It’s things people can sell, which makes sense in the recession.”
Although crime has been generally dipping in the state the past three years compared to the same January-through-June six-month period last year, crime in Denver overall — violent and nonviolent, is up 3.3 percent.
Denver’s violent crimes have inched up by 0.3 percent. Homicides are up 6 percent, sexual assault 38 percent, aggravated assault 3 percent.
Robbery, however, has plummeted 16 percent, muddling any easy overall analysis of the figures. There have been 459 robberies reported so far this year compared to last year’s 543 for the same period.
Larceny is up 10 percent in Denver. Grand theft auto up 30 percent.
Wyckoff said she thinks the dip in crime rates over the last few years came as a result of increased community policing.
“We targeted areas we know we have this or that kind of problem. We attack that problem and take preventative measures. We targeted broken windows, for instance. It works.”
Wyckoff also pointed out that this year’s jump in reports of sexual assault — 215 cases compared to 156 last year. But she added that the increase may be just that: a jump in reporting.
“We are seeing very few stranger assaults. These are attacks by people the victims know — boyfriends, relatives, husbands … There’s no pattern but, it may be that people increasingly feel more comfortable about reporting sexual assault.”
Wyckoff doesn’t believe city and state budget cuts have so far influenced the crime rate.
“We haven’t lost officers. That’s the main thing. The city faces, what, a $120 million shortfall? So we know more is coming. We’ve had to make cuts. We do less sweeps. That’s true. But the cuts in personnel have been civilians. I’m three analysts short in my department. I’m bringing on interns to fill the gap — they’ll help with the work but they’ll receive education as well.”