Sex Crimes in Denver: Fewer Than 50 Percent of Rapes Solved Last Year

File photo
Editor's note: This is the second post in a series exploring violent crime in Denver. Click to read our first report, "Murder in Denver: Victims, Victimizers, Most Common Locations for Killings."

During 2017, more than 1,200 crimes involving non-consensual sex were committed in Denver, including more than 500 rapes, of which fewer than 50 percent were cleared by law enforcement.

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.

Non-consensual sex offenses are defined as "any sexual act directed against another person, without the consent of the victim, including instances where the victim is incapable of giving consent. Sex offenses include rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object and fondling."

The total number of non-consensual sex crimes in Denver circa 2017 was 1,217. Of those, 694 are listed as cleared, for a rate of just over 57 percent.
The clearance rate in two subsections of this category were higher — nearly 67 percent for fondling offenses and in excess of 61 percent for sodomy.

But for rape, which made up the largest portion of the total, the percentage of cases cleared was just 45.17 percent, and 40 percent for sexual assault with an object — though there were only five of the latter incidents in Denver during 2017, making that statistic less useful.

Here's the breakdown:
Number of crimes: 518
Number of crimes cleared: 234
Clearance percentage: 57.03

Number of crimes: 490
Number of crimes cleared: 333
Clearance percentage: 67.96

Number of crimes: 204
Number of crimes cleared: 125
Clearance percentage: 61.27

Sexual assault with an object
Number of crimes: 5
Number of crimes cleared: 2
Clearance percentage: 40.00
Most of the murders in Denver during 2017 took place on roads or areas dedicated to parking or camping. However, non-consensual sex crimes last year mainly took place in residences or homes — 571 incidents overall.

Next in location frequency were businesses, educational facilities and government or public buildings. This data suggests that Denverites were all too often victimized at work or at school.

See the location listings below:
Residence/Home: 571
Road/Parking/Camps: 180
Commercial: 169
Educational Facility: 120
Government/Public building: 104
Other/Unknown: 70
Construction/Industrial/Farm: 3
Weapons were rarely used in non-consensual sex offenses within Denver's city limits in 2017. Overwhelmingly, victimizers deployed so-called "personal weapons," including hands, fists, arms, feet, arms and teeth.

Firearms, cited in the vast majority of murders, were only used in ten of the 1,217 cases.

Continue for this grouping of data:
Personal Weapons (hands, fists, arms, feet, arms, teeth, etc.): 1,041
Other: 84
Unknown: 82
Dangerous weapons (including knives and blunt objects): 13
Firearms: 10
Poison/Drugs: 8
Asphyxiation by drowning, strangulation, suffocation, gas: 1
The ages of non-consensual sex crime victims in Denver last year were clustered among individuals age 34 or younger — and often a lot younger.

Twelve victims were less than ten and more than 100 were between ten and seventeen. But even more troubling are the numbers of victims in the 18-24 and 25-34 demos: 307 and 412, respectively.

The totals are as follows:
Under 10: 12
10-17: 102
18-24: 307
25-34: 412
35-44: 272
45-54: 200
55-64: 115
65 and over: 37
Unknown: 7
In comparison, the ages of offenders in this category are distributed fairly evenly across a range of age groups. Seven children under the age of ten are listed as offenders, and the sums jump up from there.

The largest number of offenders in Denver last year were between 35 and 44 years of age, but just barely, as you can see.
Under 10: 7
10-17: 214
18-24: 124
25-34: 240
35-44: 242
45-54: 91
55-64: 82
65 and over: 35
Unknown: 216
Confirmed by the 2017 Denver data is the theory that most victims of sex offenses know the person or persons who violated them.

Well over half of the 1,217 offenses were committed by acquaintances, family members or what's referred to as an "intimate." But there were also more than 200 crimes committed against individuals by strangers.

That data is here:
Acquaintance: 506
Stranger: 245
Family: 205
Unknown: 168
Intimate: 105
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts