Editor's note: This is the third post in a series exploring violent crime in Denver. Click to read our first two reports, "Murder in Denver: Victims, Victimizers, Most Common Locations for Killings" and "Sex Crimes in Denver: Fewer Than 50 Percent of Rapes Solved Last Year."
Of the 2,800-plus aggravated assaults that took place in Denver during 2017, law enforcement has yet to clear more than a thousand. And even though many victims knew their attacker, well over 900 were hurt by a stranger.
The information comes from Colorado Crime Statistics, an excellent new website recently launched by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The site is very user-friendly, allowing folks to look up a wide range of data for specific time periods and jurisdictions.
We accessed Denver Police Department digits about violent crime, which includes murder, non-consensual sex offenses, aggravated assault and robbery, during 2017, the most recent year for which final stats are available.
Solving cases in these combined categories last year proved to be a significant challenge. Only about 54 percent of the DPD's cases were designated as "cleared," a term CBI communication director Susan Medina defines like so:
"'Cleared,' in most cases, means one or more arrests were made," Medina explains via email. "However, there are exceptions where an incident has reached a conclusion from the law enforcement perspective. An incident is also cleared if the offender is found but not arrested. These are called 'exceptional clearances.' Exceptional clearance occurs when the offender is a juvenile released to the parents, or if the offender is found to be deceased or if the offender is found to be in the custody of another jurisdiction. Also, an exceptional clearance may occur if the case cannot proceed by either prosecution declining the case or the victim refusing to cooperate. Then the incident is counted as cleared."
In all cases, though, "'cleared' means law enforcement has found the perpetrator of the crimes which occurred in the reported incident," she stresses.
The definition of aggravated assault used by the CBI is a lengthy one: "An unlawful attack by one person upon another wherein the offender uses a weapon or displays it in a threatening manner, or the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, possible internal injury, severe laceration, or loss of consciousness. This also includes assault with disease (as in cases when the offender is aware that he/she is infected with a deadly disease and deliberately attempts to inflict the disease by biting, spitting, etc.)."
The locations where most aggravated assaults happened in Denver last year were dominated by two general categories: roads and areas designated for parking and camps, as well as residences and homes. Just over 81 percent of such offenses fall under one of these umbrellas.
Here's the breakdown:
Government/Public Building: 129
Educational Facility: 46
A wide variety of weapons were used to commit aggravated assaults in Denver circa 2017. Firearms and so-called "dangerous weapons," a bracket that includes knives and blunt objects, ran neck and neck.
But "personal weapons" such as hands and feet, were the instruments of this crime in nearly 700 instances, and on 36 occasions, asphyxiation of various types was documented.
Here's this set of data:
Dangerous Weapons: 947
Personal Weapons (hands, fists, arms, feet, arms, teeth, etc.): 682
Motor Vehicle as a Weapon: 124
Asphyxiation (by drowning, strangulation, suffocation, gas): 36
The rankings of injuries sustained by Denver victims of aggravated assault last year is especially jarring.
Granted, nearly 1,300 people appeared to have avoided injury, and the wounds experienced by nearly 700 more were considered minor. But hundreds of people suffered a "severe laceration," "apparent broken bones," "unconsciousness" or "loss of teeth."
Apparent Minor Injury: 697
Severe Laceration: 305
Other Major Injury: 253
Possible Internal Injury: 250
Apparent Broken Bones: 217
Loss of Teeth: 53
More men than women were victims of aggravated assault in Denver during 2017, but the numbers are fairly close: 2,958 to 2,571.
As for age, most of the victims were 34 years old or younger. The largest number of victims was in the 25-to-34 demo, followed closely by the one for 18- to 24-year-olds. And disturbingly, 256 children under the age of ten were aggravated assault victims last year, as well as 630 other juveniles between ten and seventeen.
The complete figures:
Under 10: 256
65 and over: 135
Denver aggravated assault offenders in 2017 were spread across all age categories other than children under ten, and the second-largest number is labeled "unknown" — presumably because they pertain to uncleared cases.
Still, 25- to 34-year-olds racked up the most arrests by a substantial number.
The offender totals:
Under 10: 0
65 and over: 24
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The highest total in the victim-to-offender relationship figures for aggravated assault in Denver last year involve strangers — an apparent difference between this crime category and those involving murder and non-consensual sex offenses. But these digits may be deceiving.
Add up the numbers for "acquaintance," "family" and "intimate," and they suggest that most victims knew their assaulter. But combining the "stranger" and "unknown" categories produces an even larger sum.
Continue for the results: