Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series to look at violent crime in Denver.
Of the 58 murders that occurred in Denver in 2017, more than twenty are unsolved. And while firearms were used in the vast majority of cases, six people were killed by so-called “personal weapons,” including hands, fists, feet, arms and teeth.
The information comes from Colorado Crime Statistics, an excellent new website recently launched by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The website is very user-friendly and allows users to look up a wide variety of dates for specific time periods and jurisdictions.
We accessed the Denver Police Department digits that deal with violent crimes, including murder, non-consensual sex offenses, aggravated assault, and robbery in 2017, the most recent year for which final statistics are available.
Resolving cases in these combined categories last year proved to be a significant challenge. Only around 54 percent of DPD cases were classified as “resolved”, a term that CBI communications director Susan Medina defines as follows:
“Cleared in most cases means that one or more arrests have been made,” said Medina via email. “However, there are exceptions where an incident has come to a conclusion from a law enforcement perspective. An incident is also deleted if the perpetrator is found but not arrested. These are known as” exceptional clearances ” if the perpetrator is a juvenile who has been released for the parents, or if the perpetrator is determined to have died or if the perpetrator is in the custody of another jurisdiction. Extraordinary clearance can also be granted if the case does not proceed can either be through law enforcement rejecting the case or the victim rejecting cooperation. Then the incident is counted as resolved. “
In all cases, however, “resolved” means that law enforcement has found the perpetrator of the crimes committed in the reported incident, “she said.
When it came to murder, defined as “the willful (not negligent) killing of one person by another,” the department was more successful, clearing 62 percent of the murders. CBI lists 36 of the 58 murders as resolved and leaves 22 unsolved.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation charts on murders in Denver in 2017.
One of the biggest surprises the data reveals is the location of the incidents.
The popular belief is that most murders take place where a victim lives, but this was not the case in Denver in 2017. Last year, eighteen of the incidents occurred in a dorm or home while the setting for 32 was down a street or area for parking or camping.
Here is the full breakdown:
Street / Parking / Camps: 32
Place of residence: 18
Government / public building: 3
Educational institution: 1
Other / Unknown: 1
Likewise, most of us believe murder victims tend to know their killers – but the 2017 numbers in Denver are less clear on this point, likely due to the more than twenty cases that have remained unsolved.
Of the 58 murders, eighteen are believed to have been committed by an acquaintance of the victim, while two more were killed by a family member and one by someone defined as “intimate”. But in thirty cases the relationship remained “unknown,” and individuals defined as “strangers” were responsible for ten.
The listing is as follows:
In relation to the type of weapon or violence involved in the killings, the vast majority of crimes involved the use of firearms: 39. Next are so-called “dangerous weapons”, including knives and blunt objects, followed by “personal weapons” “(ie body parts), the use of a motor vehicle, and asphyxiation by any of several methods on the list below:
Dangerous weapons: 11
Personal weapons (hands, fists, arms, feet, arms, teeth, etc.): 6
Motor vehicle as a weapon: 1
Suffocation from drowning, choking, choking, gas: 1
The DPD data do not contain statistics on the sex and age of the victims and perpetrators in the murder category. However, details are available for violent crimes overall.
Here is the information on such victims in Denver in 2017:
As you can see, almost half of all victims were under 34 years of age.
The largest demographic, however, affects young adults between the ages of 25 and 34. The 1,513 people in this group make up around 27 percent of the total of 5,643 victims.
People aged 65 and over were the lowest number of violent crimes committed in Denver around 2017. That year, 135 of these men and women became victims – just over half of the 256 victims under the age of ten.
In addition, men were more likely to be victims than women, but not by much: 53.5 to 46.5 percent.
In contrast, men commit far more violent crimes than women, as the graph above shows.
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Of the 2,164 people arrested for a violent crime in Denver in 2017, 1,835 were men and only 329 were women. That is a split of 85-15 percent.
When it comes to age, most of those arrested fell into the same demonstration as the highest percentage of victims: 25-34 years old. No children under the age of ten were arrested for a violent crime in Denver last year, but 238 people between the ages of ten and seventeen – an overall higher than those 45-54 (218), 55-64 (108) or 65 and over (twenty) .
Overall, victims and victims in Mile High City seem to have a lot in common, aside from the horrific acts recorded by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.