When it comes to the impact of progressive prosecutor policies on the crime tsunami, it was the worst of times, and it was the worst-er of times.
This past Tuesday, in the face of a persistent public perception of pervasive crime, a large majority of voters (60%) in liberal San Francisco fired their aggressively progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin, after less than eighteen months on the job.
Under even more aggravated circumstances, facing a demonstrably disastrous deterioration in crime numbers, voters in liberal Denver have shown no interest in using their votes to change anything — not the district attorney, city council, mayor — no elected official. Crickets.
In 2014, California began to decrease penalties for crime and reclassify some felonies as misdemeanors. During that same year, Colorado launched legalized recreational marijuana and began to water down our criminal laws, including decreasing penalties for motor vehicle theft, thanks to a change in the law supported by the current Denver district attorney.
California and East California (Colorado) have each taken similar paths with offender-focused legislative changes, as well as electing proudly self-proclaimed “progressive prosecutors” in some major cities, San Francisco and Denver among them.
Progressive prosecutors are known for policies that diminish, if not outright eliminate cash bail, seek little to no incarceration as a sanction for even repeat offenders, and allow accused criminals back into the community. The result has been negative, but less so in San Francisco than in Denver.
San Francisco, a city of 875,000, has experienced overall violent crime at some of the lowest levels in four decades. Although violent crime declined during the pandemic in San Fransisco, homicides jumped from 48 in 2020 to 56 in 2021.
Property crime has been a different issue. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Among the 25 largest U.S. cities, San Francisco has had the highest property crime rate in four of the most recent six years for which data is available … Burglaries in the city are at their highest levels since the mid-1990s.” Sound familiar, Denverites? It should not.
We hope to one day be as safe as San Francisco. Say that sentence out loud. It sounds crazy.
Our Denver, a city of only 716,000, has seen a crime environment worse than the City by the Bay. Over the same period that Boudin was in office in San Fransisco, Denver had a 51% increase in car thefts. However, unlike SF, Denver’s degrading public safety woes are not limited to property crimes. Homicides are surging.
The last time Denver had as few as 56 homicides (San Francisco’s 2021 number) was the year before it elected its current, progressive prosecutor, Beth McCann. Every year since then, homicides have increased, resulting in 96 homicides in 2021, the highest number in four decades. That is a 71% increase. Post-pandemic, San Francisco has seen a downward trajectory for homicides. Not true in Denver, which has already recorded 43 and is on pace to surpass last year’s historic total.
By nearly every measure, Denver is a more dangerous and crime-affected city than San Francisco, and in no small part due to the approach of the legislature and the new breed of progressive prosecutors.
San Franciscans, faced with a more favorable crime climate than here, took immediate action to change course and save their city by firing the person charged with advancing public safety, enforcing the rule of law, and seeking justice. They did not wait for an election. They forced one to happen.
For our beloved queen city of Denver, with November just ahead of us, and the same power of recall at their disposal, the question remains: will they choose the status quo, or will this be a far better thing that they do than they have ever done?
George Brauchler is a former district attorney from the 18th Judicial District in Aurora and is a regular columnist for The Denver Post.
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