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Aurora sees 40% increase in shootings in 2020, with other crimes up as well

The Beacon-News - 2/7/2021

Feb. 7—Aurora saw a 40% increase in shootings in 2020 during a year when residents were often staying at home due to the pandemic.

The city had 154 shootings last year, preliminary numbers obtained by The Beacon-News show, including 11 shooting deaths.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman and Mayor Richard Irvin spoke during a news conference Wednesday to address an uptick in violent crimes in the city and attributed a large portion of the crimes including the shooting deaths to an ongoing "gang war."

"The gang war has continued into 2021 and we can trace it back to petty and immature differences between rival gangs," Ziman said.

While the city is nowhere near the high crime rate it saw in the mid-1990s, Irvin said he wants to prevent moving backward. In 1996, Aurora reached 26 murders.

The number of homicides had significantly decreased, with Aurora seeing six in 2017 and four in 2018, but the numbers have begun to rise again. In 2019, Aurora saw the highest number of killings since 2007 with 12, with five of the deaths connected to the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. warehouse on Feb. 15.

Of the 11 shooting deaths in 2020, three of the deaths were domestic-related, with two of the three being murder-suicides, officials said. The victims in the other shooting deaths weren't necessarily all members of gangs, but may have been killed due to cases of mistaken identity or because a family member is in a gang, according to officials.

While just a little more than one month into 2021, Irvin said crime has not dipped and several noteworthy cases have occurred including a woman who was shot in the back during a carjacking on Jan. 16.

Along with shootings, Ziman said other crimes increased in 2020, including domestic abuse and child abuse cases. Police were still compiling specific statistics for both categories.

"Domestics and people being in their homes resulted in three homicides that were domestic-related," Ziman said.

Arson cases also increased, going up by 88% in 2020. There were nine arson cases in 2018, 17 cases in 2019 and 32 cases in 2020. Aurora Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Rhodes said the spike can be attributed to an increase in domestic disputes and has increased the number of structure fires in the city from 21 in 2019 to 36 in 2020.

Aggravated assault and battery cases increased by 40%, with 372 cases in 2018, 356 cases in 2019 and 502 cases in 2020.

Police seized 151 handguns, 29 rifles and 13 shotguns in 2020, police said. So far, in 2021, the police have seized 17 firearms, Ziman said.

To deal with the spike in violent crime, Irvin said he wants to overhaul neighborhood outreach groups and mentoring programs to help youths before they are recruited into gangs. He proposed reorganizing the city's Neighborhood Services and Outreach Department to put more people and police in the communities where crimes are happening.


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