January 22 – In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Governor Jared Polis asserted that Colorado “falls in the middle of the pack in terms of crime rates.”
“Everyone deserves a safe home and a safe community, and in three years I want Colorado to move closer to our goal of becoming one of the 10 safest states,” he said. “Right now, Colorado falls in the middle of the pack in terms of crime rates, but that’s not good enough.”
“We can and must do better,” he added.
That statement — that Colorado’s crime rate is somewhere in the middle — refutes the story of crime, particularly auto theft, in the state.
So, is Colorado in the “middle of the pack” when it comes to crime?
Crime data from the FBI shows that Colorado’s crime rate is significantly higher than the national figure. However, the FBI’s database does not include all law enforcement jurisdictions, which may skew state rankings.
The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) estimates the total violent crime rate for Colorado at 481 per 100,000 residents in 2021.
By contrast, NIBRS estimated the violent crime rate for the US at 395.7 per 100,000 people in the same year, meaning that based on this database alone, Colorado’s crime rate is higher than the national average.
The FBI classifies murder, aggravated assault, robbery, and rape as violent crimes. NIBRS estimates that overall violent crime decreased by 1.7% between 2020 and 2021, primarily due to an estimated decline in robberies.
Arkansas and Washington, D.C. had the highest estimated violent crime rates in 2021 — at 708.5 and 968.6, respectively — among the states included in the FBI’s estimates.
For property crime, NIBRS estimated the number in Colorado in the same year at 3,135.4.
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By contrast, according to NIBRS estimates, the country’s property crime rate was 1,933.4.
Property crime includes burglary, robbery, and motor vehicle theft and theft. The national estimated number of motor vehicle thefts, a major concern for many, was 268.1.
In fact, only Washington DC’s property crime estimate — at 4,109.4 — was higher than Colorado’s outside of states included in the database.
While the FBI estimates show a decline in property crimes nationally from 2020 to 2021, the estimated motor vehicle theft rate is up 11.5%.
It’s hard to draw definitive conclusions about where Colorado’s crime rate ranks compared to other states because not all jurisdictions report their crime rates to the FBI’s database.
In 2021, the most recent year for which annual crime statistics are available from the FBI, approximately 37% of US law enforcement agencies have not reported data to the FBI’s NIBRS, which has also recently been reviewed.
The agencies that did not report included New York City and Los Angeles, the largest cities in the US by population.
Law enforcement agencies’ participation in reporting statistics to the FBI is voluntary.
As of April 2022, only 19 states had fully transitioned to using NIBRS.
For data reported to the FBI for January through September 2022 — the most recent report available for last year — the FBI declined to make estimates about regional or population-based trends in crime statistics because the agency did not receive data from about 36% of the country’s 18,964 law enforcement agencies.
“When a significant amount of data is missing — such as large amounts of crime data from the nation’s most populous cities — there is a general concern that the data received is not representative of what would be experienced if all the data were received,” the FBI said. on its website. “National crime trends are particularly influenced by agencies that cover populations of 1,000,000 or more.”
The Polis office did not respond to a request for comment or verification of the sources Polis used to make that estimate.