Denver has recorded 61 homicides this year, a near-record pace. The Denver Post says that the number has already surpassed the total number of killings in 2001 and also in 2002. Particularly troubling to police is how many of those homicides have gone unsolved. Typically, Denver police “clear” two-thirds to three-quarters of all homicides in a year. Though the clearance rate could still rise dramatically this year, it so far is close to 50 percent. Nationally, more than 60 percent of homicides are solved. Denver police Division Chief Dave Fisher called it a “perfect storm” scenario: Violence is up at a time when the number of officers on the streets is down and city revenues have fallen.
The year’s homicide victims have ranged from the elderly to newborn babies. They have been shot, beaten, stabbed, strangled, set on fire, or simply neglected. Killings have taken place in streets, alleys, homes, liquor stores, and parking lots. The alleged killers are robbers, boyfriends, fathers and a teenage girl. “There are some very bizarre stories in these numbers. Hollywood doesn’t make up stuff like this,” Fisher said. Mayor John Hickenlooper is concerned about the violence and increasing number of killings in Denver, said Michael Bennet, his chief of staff. No clear pattern has emerged. Seven homicides are gang-related. Four homeless men were killed. Six were child-abuse deaths, including babies shaken, neglected, or left in trash bins. Liz McDonough of the Colorado Department of Human Services said “young people or children adds to the sense of tragedy. There are a myriad of causes and circumstances, so I don’t know how you prevent it.”