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Murder in Denver: Victims, Victimizers, Most Common Locations for Killings

Murder in Denver: Victims, Victimizers, Most Common Locations for Killings
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Editor's note: This is the first post in a series exploring violent crime in Denver.

Of the 58 murders that took place in Denver in 2017, more than twenty remain unsolved. And while firearms were used in the vast majority of cases, six people were killed by what are described as "personal weapons," including hands, fists, feet, arms and teeth.

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.

When it came to murder, defined as "the willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another," the department was more successful, clearing 62 percent of slayings. CBI lists 36 of the 58 murders as cleared, leaving 22 unresolved.

Colorado Bureau of Investigation graphics about murders in Denver during 2017.EXPAND
Colorado Bureau of Investigation graphics about murders in Denver during 2017.

Among the biggest surprises revealed by the data involves the location of the incidents.

The popular perception is that most murders take place where a victim lives, but that wasn't the case in Denver during 2017. Last year, eighteen of the incidents happened at a residence or home, while the setting for 32 was a road or areas set aside for parking or camping.

Here's the complete breakdown:

Road/Parking/Camps: 32
Residence/Home: 18
Commercial: 3
Government/Public Building: 3
Education Facility: 1
Other/Unknown: 1

Likewise, most of us believe that murder victims tend to know their killers — but the 2017 Denver figures are less clear on that point, probably because of the twenty-plus cases that haven't been cleared.

Of the 58 murders, eighteen are said to have been committed by an acquaintance of the victim, while two others were slain by a family member and one by someone defined as an "intimate." But in thirty instances, the relationship remained "unknown," and people defined as a "stranger" were responsible for ten.

The listing is as follows:

Unknown: 30
Acquaintance: 18
Stranger: 10
Family: 2
Intimate: 1

In regard to the type of weapon or force involved in the murders, firearms were used in the overwhelming majority of the crimes: 39. Next in order are so-called "dangerous weapons," including knives and blunt objects, followed by "personal weapons" (i.e., body parts), the use of a motor vehicle and asphyxiation by one of several methods outlined in the roster below:

Firearm: 39
Dangerous weapons: 11
Personal weapons (Hands, fists, arms, feet, arms, teeth, etc.): 6
Motor vehicle as a weapon: 1
Asphyxiation by drowning, strangulation, suffocation, gas: 1
Other: 1

The DPD data doesn't break down statistics for victim and offender genders and ages in the murder category. But details are available for violent crimes as a whole.

Here's the information about such victims in Denver during 2017:

As you can see, nearly half of all victims were younger than 34.

However, the largest demographic slice involves young adults between the ages of 25 and 34. The 1,513 individuals in that bracket make up around 27 percent of the 5,643 victim total.

People age 65 and over were the least likely to have violent crimes committed against them in Denver circa 2017. During that year, 135 of these men and women were victimized — just over half of the 256 victims under age ten.

Additionally, males were more likely to be victims than females, but not by much: 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent.

In contrast, men commit many more violent crimes than women, as demonstrated by the graphic above.

Of the 2,164 people arrested during 2017 for a violent crime in Denver, 1,835 were men and just 329 were women. That's an 85-15 percent split.

When it comes to age, the largest chunk of arrestees fell into the same demo as the highest percentage of victims: ages 25-34. No children under age ten were busted for committing a violent crime in Denver last year, but 238 people between ten and seventeen were — a total higher than those ages 45-54 (218), 55-64 (108) or 65 and over (twenty).

Overall, victims and victimizers in the Mile High City appear to have a lot in common beyond the terrible acts recorded by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

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