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The cost of crime on Colorado’s economy hits Montezuma County

Researchers report fluctuations in crime since pandemic began
(Adobe stock)

After the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado has seen a fluctuation in different types of crime that significantly affect the state and individuals, including residents in Montezuma County.

According to research published July 13 by the nonpartisan research organization Common Sense Institute, Montezuma County residents fall into the upper range of adults who individually pay for crime costs.

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Researchers hope that crime reduction will happen once community members see the link between crime and the economy.

The report states that although it’s unlikely to get to zero crime, crime reduction can be economically beneficial for taxpayers, individuals and communities – thus improving quality of life.

Both victims and communities experience the largest economic costs, whether it’s from loss of life, physical harm, high insurance premiums, lost earnings and high taxes.

Costs that community members pay for also include taxes that include police and fire services, public defenders, judges and incarceration. Insurance rates always increase when crime persists in certain regions.

Between 2020 and 2023, most of Colorado’s 64 counties, including Montezuma County, have been impacted by crime costs. These charges include tangible and intangible effects.

Tangible effects include out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost earnings, police costs, damaged property, courts, correctional institutions and stolen property.

Intangible effects include lower levels of investment and property values, pain and suffering of victims, extensive mental health care and reduced quality of life for everyone.

The report found that for every 1% decrease in the number of crimes, the state could add 474 jobs and $56.2 million to its gross domestic product.

Although crime reduction would be economically viable for communities, detrimental effects could decrease demand for services in the criminal justice system, including unemployment of parole officers, bail bondsmen, lawyers and prison guards. The report suggests that those who have been displaced in the workforce might have to be retrained and educated.

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank, Colorado has about 31,058 inmates – 15,865 in Colorado prisons, 12,710 in local jails, 1,681 in federal prisons, 753 in juvenile facilities and 49 inmates in Native American jails.

Colorado has 15 juvenile detention centers that detain young people between ages 11-21, according to data reported by the Colorado Sun on July 19. The Sun noted that many juveniles are held 30 days past their release dates because of a shortage of transitional living facilities or safe places to reside.

Colorado crime decreases in 2023

While the report suggests an unlikely reduction in crime, it illuminates the burden that crime imposes on citizens and the economy.

Crimes that increased the most in Colorado include motor vehicle thefts (10.2%) accompanied by aggravated assault (8%). Rape and other sexual assaults decreased the most (-12%).

Steven Byers, Common Sense Institute’s Senior Economist, said that they’ve done a lot of work with District Attorneys and Police Chiefs about crime reduction. They found that the majority of crime is perpetrated by repeat offenders on a consistent basis.

In another report by the Common Sense Institute about the fight against Colorado’s crime, Mike Greenwell, commander of the Metropolitan Auto Theft Task Force, said, “I would say 95% of the people my team arrests have multiple prior arrests for auto theft.”

In one example, the state legislature reduced penalties for auto theft in 2014, where sanctions were based on the value of the stolen car. In most cases, inexpensive automobiles were stolen, dropping the charge to misdemeanors. In 2022 they found that auto theft jumped to a 252% increase because of the generous fines. Byers said that during the past state legislature session, they revised those penalties and since then there has been a significant drop in crimes because the perpetrators now have a higher price to pay.

During the first five months of 2023, Colorado’s crime rate per 100,000 was much lower than the years of 2021 and 2022. This includes violent crime and property crime.

Cost of crime in Montezuma County ranks in top 10

With 64 counties in Colorado, Montezuma County varied in rank depending on types of crime and economic effects.

According to the report, Montezuma County placed in the top 10 Colorado counties for the cost of crime per capita (the average per person) at $5,639 in 2022.

Again, what each resident paid for includes public service taxes – police, fire, public service defenders – and insurance rates.

By comparison, during the same year crime cost each Coloradan $4,623. Adams County’s cost was highest, at $10,243.

Montezuma County experienced 1,265 crimes that year and ranked No. 21 out of 64 for the number of crimes, but No. 15 for the cost of crime, at $69.8 million for all police-reported crime. By comparison, Denver’s cost was $2,370.9 million, or $2.37 billion.

That same year, the cost of police-reported crimes for each Montezuma County resident was $2,636, which made the county the seventh-highest in the state for amount that residents individually paid for crime.

Considering crime concentrations by county as mentioned in the report, Montezuma County held 76% of all offense types, 147% crimes against persons, 59% crimes against property and 55% of crimes against society. Adams County contained the highest with 214%, 225%, 215% and 200% respectively.

As of July 19, 2023, Colorado Crime Statistics show that Montezuma County has had seven violent crime offenses, 33 thefts, 15 burglaries, 12 fraud offenses and nine motor vehicle thefts.