Jake Lilly tells Lakewood voters “No on 200”

Jake Lilly tells Lakewood voters “No on 200”

A number of statements made by supporters of “Yes on 200” claim that passage of this measure will lower crime rates or stop a rise in crime.  The theory seems to be that population growth above 1%, denser population, or more affordable housing will lead to a rise in crime rates.  Savelakewood.org specifically claims that “Yes on 200” will address Lakewood’s drop to “4th worst” ranking on violent crime. 

But this is simply not true.

We must start with the basics.  A rise in population always leads to a rise in crime. If Lakewood’s population continues to rise, at all, the number of crimes committed will rise.  However, what we really need to look at closely is the crime rate.  Crime rate measures the number of crimes per a certain number of people.  New York City experiences over 44,000 violent crimes per year but it has a crime rate per 100,00 people that is significantly less than Aurora.

Lakewood’s SafeWise ranking is based on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports Data, which both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Society of Criminology have warned against relying upon. Most U.S. cities, including Colorado cities, have experienced a large drop in violent crime over the last decades.  Despite recent increases in criminal filings in Colorado and Jefferson County, increasingly centered around drug crimes, crime rates remain at historic lows. 

For a long time, it was taken as gospel that higher density populations lead to a higher crime rate.  A number of studies from the 1980s and 1990s supported this conclusion.  However, recent studies have suggested it’s not quite so simple.  In depth studies have determined that crime rate is much more dependent on walkability of the neighborhood, mix of commercial and residential property, and type of commercial activity than merely a reflection of density.

In fact, several studies have suggested that high residential density should operate against crime by providing less opportunity to remain unobserved through increased pedestrian traffic.  Simply put, you’re less likely to commit most crimes if you think people are watching.  New York City has operated on this premise for years and has seen a vast improvement in crime rates.  High residential density rates alone have been shown in some recent studies to decrease crime.

“Yes on 200” will serve to make Lakewood less diverse, more unaffordable, and harder to travel within.  It will not, however, effectively address crime.  Crime, at all levels, must be addressed thoroughly and with the latest advances in technology and methods.  Blanket caps on growth are a blunt instrument which do not truly target crime in the necessary narrow manner.  Crime is much more effectively targeted with detailed zoning controls, police operations focused on high volume offenders and hot spots, and the right mix of property types. 

Lakewood’s Initiative 200 isn’t going to prevent crime, and voting “No on 200” isn’t going to make Lakewood unsafe.  However, voting “No on 200” will ensure that Lakewood remains a vibrant and diverse community that everyone can enjoy.

-Jake Lilly – Candidate for D.A. for Jefferson and Gilpin counties