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Amid rising violent crime, Colorado bill aims to improve lighting in high-crime areas

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Safer Streets Act, which is making its way through the Colorado State Legislature, proposes tangible ways to attempt to deter criminal activity in high-crime areas across Colorado.

These improvements include better lighting, improved trash collection, access control and space management, according to the bill text.

The bills introduction comes at a time of rising crime. Colorado experienced a 15% increase in crime from 2019-2021, and the average monthly crime rate in 2021 is 28% higher than it was in 2011, according to a study by the Common Sense Institute.

Colorado State Senator Nick Hinrichsen from Pueblo is a prime sponsor on the bill. He tells KRDO the bill tries to keep everyday citizens safer.

"It's making the environment safer for people who are doing everyday things that they need to do to live in and enjoy their communities, and driving those who would be doing crime away from those areas," Hinrichsen said.

The bill says that law enforcement agencies across the state will identify high-crime areas in each Colorado county. Once identified, the Department of Public Safety will work to make necessary changes to the landscape of each area.

In total, the bill would provide $10.3 million from the Colorado general fund to DPS for those improvements.

Hinrichsen told KRDO that he believes law enforcement agencies track where crime happens in their community very well. This allows them to pinpoint where the work needs to be done.

"What they have to show is that this area is unsafe for commuters or it's unsafe for pedestrian, retail, traffic or whatever the case may be, and here is what we are going to do about it," Hinrichsen said.

The topic of rising crime levels has been on the minds of other Colorado leaders in both Pueblo and the Springs.

"People complain about crime being up and I complain about crime being up," Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar said. "We've got too many bad guys on the streets and if you ask the police officers, they pretty much know who the bad actors are."

Gradisar added that law enforcement officials can identify when crime may spike based on who is getting out of jail -- and when.

"We haven't been very effective in rehabilitating them or getting them to change that behavior and if we aren't going to keep them locked up, we're going to have to put up with a certain level of that abhorrent behavior that they are going to engage in," Gradisar said.

The Safer Streets Act is one of numerous bills addressing public safety and crime rates in the 2022 legislative session thus far. KRDO spoke with 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen this week about whether legislators are taking the advice from law enforcement agencies like the DA's office.

"I think they are trying to do that this year because it is an election year. In the past couple of years who they have been listening to is the ACLU and the public defenders office," Allen said. "Neither one of those entities are really focused on public safety. We, the police chiefs and DA's, have it as our mission of public safety."

Allen went on to say that it is vital for citizens to participate and let their feelings be known on specific pieces of legislature, whether that be reaching out to your district Senator or Representative or asking your District Attorney their opinion on a bill.

"Let your opinion be known. Go up to the Capitol and testify. They are always looking to hear from citizens," Allen said.

The Safer Streets Act has passed the Senate Committee and is awaiting on Senate appropriations. After that, it will go to the Senate floor and then then the Colorado House of Representatives. Hinrichsen is confident it will pass in both.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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