Police Union: "We walk away when possible."By Brian Maass

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – When Aurora City Councilman Dave Gruber sat down for an interview with CBS4, he said he had just received an email from one of his constituents.

“Please deal with crime. I don’t feel safe in Aurora anymore,” Gruber quoted the email as saying.

Indeed, Aurora has seen a significant rise in violent crime. When CBS4 compared the first nine months of 2020 to the same period in 2019, it showed significant increases in major violent crimes.

As of Sept. 13:

  • Murders were up 72.2% — from 18 in 2019 to 31 in 2020
  • Armed assaults were up 34.3%
  • Robberies were up 31%

Overall, major violent crimes are up 24.4% in Aurora from the same time in 2019.

Property crimes are also headed up with motor vehicle thefts up 53.3% from last year and burglaries up 13.9%.

(credit: CBS)

“Crime across the board is going up. We’re having a lot of problems,” said Gruber. He believes there are a number of factors including increased gang violence, major car theft rings, less respect for police and a police force that is more reluctant to go “hands on.”

“Aurora is open to [criminals],” observed Gruber. “Aurora is a low-risk area and that’s a message we need to fix and we need to stop that.”

While violent crimes are on the rise, figures obtained by CBS4 show a dramatic drop in physical arrests — down 44.6% from 2019.

The Aurora Police Department declined to be interviewed about the new crime statistics.

Agent Faith Goodrich, an APD public information officer, told CBS4, “While we are aware that crime stats appear to be on the rise, this is not an issue that is unique to Aurora. It has been seen metro-wide and nationwide.”

“As always, the Aurora Police Department is committed to reducing crime by partnering with our community,” wrote Goodrich.

Indeed, Denver has also seen increases in violent crime, but not as dramatic as Aurora’s. Major violent crimes in Denver are up 11.8% compared to 24.4% in Aurora.

Our research found:

  • Denver murders from January through August of 2020 were up 46.5% from the same time period in 2019
  • Armed assaults were up 22.9%
  • Robberies were down 2.7%

While Aurora’s police department isn’t talking about the statistics, one of their unions, the Aurora Police Association, is talking.

They pointed out that the numbers are likely even worse, since crime dropped dramatically during the COVID-19 lockdown.

(credit: Aurora Police)

“People’s experience with crime is even worse than the statistics would imply,” wrote the union, which represents about 280 officers.

Union President Judy Lutkin blamed Aurora’s rising crime on a number of factors:

  • “Seditious violence sweeping the nation and the general tone of street criminals who are emboldened by it,” wrote Lutkin;
  • “The general trend of social justice warrior police leadership who have given up on ‘law enforcement’ as the primary mission of the police;”
  • and, Senate Bill 217, which Lutkin said “profoundly changed the way police use force or interact with the public.”

Lutkin said patrol culture “has become almost completely reactive. We don’t look for suspicious people who are about to commit crimes anymore. Instead we stick to answering 911 calls,” she said. “On those calls, we walk away when possible.”

She told CBS4 the goal of many officers is now to “avoid complaints, which the state and nation have shown a tendency to overreact about.”

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Lutkin wrapped up by saying, “As far as we can tell, we are properly executing what the public wants. If this isn’t what the public wants, they should do something about it.”

Brian Maass