After years of declining crime rates, the United States has seen a sharp increase in violent crime in 2020, and Greeley, Colorado police chief Mark Jones thinks he knows why. In a new op/ed in the local paper, Jones lays out several reasons for the rise in violence in his town, but his theory doesn’t just apply to what’s going on in Greeley.
Jones first points to an ACLU study that shows a 46% decline in the state’s jail population since the COVID-19 pandemic first began. While we’ve been told that only non-violent offenders are being released from jail, Jones says that’s not what he’s seen.
COVID along with America’s political unrest have placed a tremendous amount of stress on everyone. I have watched a number of Body Worn Camera videos where people simply lose their mind over a simple contact with the police.
There has been an increase in the use of alcohol and drugs since COVID began, as people try to cope with their newfound problems. This substance abuse contributes to individuals’ lack of self-control and their inability to control anger and other emotions.
In the last four months, we have experienced a number of stabbings and shootings. That number includes four homicides that are all gang related in one form or another.
Three of these homicides have involved gang members from the Denver area as either victims or suspects. GPD has seen an increase in drug activity involving these gang members as well.
Back to my comments about Colorado’s jail populations. The reductions in jail populations is not all about COVID. There is and continues to be a push from the state not to incarcerate people for drug convictions.
Jones says he doesn’t think that people caught with small amounts of drugs should be taking up prison space, but adds that the real issue is “the number of other crimes that people who use drugs are involved in, which can lead to more serious violent and non-violent crimes.”
The chief also points out that there are “more guns on the streets now than I have ever seen in my 34 years of law enforcement,” but he doesn’t call for any new gun control laws. Rather, Jones wonders why many violent criminals seem to be getting a slap on the wrist when they’re caught.
Currently there are laws on the books that require long prison time for crimes of violence with a firearm, including convicted felons in possession. The problem is very few of these people complete their sentences and are being released with less and less time served.
If we are serious about gun related violence and crime then let us use our newly found empty bed spaces for this purpose.
Lastly, as a society we have emboldened the criminal with all of the defunding the police talk, reduction in sentences, not revoking parolees and de-criminalizing or greatly reducing the levels of many crimes. I believe all of this plays a powerful role in criminal behavior and what seems to be an increased boldness and aggression toward the police and victims of crimes.
In other words, crime is increasing because criminals think they can get away with their illegal activity. Jones says with mask mandates, many criminals feel more confident about not being identified by witnesses, and if they are caught, the criminal justice system isn’t taking their crimes seriously enough.
While there may be other issues at work here, Jones has correctly identified many of the major factors driving the sharp increase in violent crimes in many cities. The answer, as he points out, isn’t to slap another gun control law on the books, but to get serious about enforcing existing laws with swift and certain consequences.