The City of Aurora announced Wednesday that it has experienced a spike in violent crime, but that it is taking steps to confront the problem by removing guns from the streets and by engaging in community outreach.
According to police data, reported shootings in Aurora jumped 40% between 2019 and 2020. Aggravated assault and battery rose 40% and arson increased by 88% during the same time frame.
There were 11 homicides in Aurora in 2020, data showed. Eight of the killings were gang-related, according to police.
“Crime has skyrocketed not just here, but across the nation,” Kristen Ziman, Chief of the Aurora Police Department, said.
Ziman added the increasing crime resulted from a “perfect storm” that included fear of a pandemic, job loss, anger and unrest for police transgressions and political divisiveness.
“I firmly believe that we can uphold the law while simultaneously treating people with human dignity and respect,” Ziman said.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin said overhauling neighborhood outreach groups and mentor programs are other factors that can help reduce crime.
“It is imperative that we as a community not only have the prevention programs in place, but also intervention programs as well,” Irvin said. “Especially during those critical years where a young teenager is faced with making those decisions that could impact the rest of his life.”
Ricky Rodgers mentors at-risk youth as part of the African American Men of Unity. He said young people can be part of the solution.
“In the long run, these young men, they get manhood training, they get leadership development, they get life skills, and instead of potential suspects, they become productive prospects,” Rodgers said.
Kevontae Anderson, 18, is being mentored as part of the program. Rodgers said he helped secure an internship for Anderson at Aurora-based Endiro Coffee.
“The internship is great. I like being here. I like working here,” Anderson said.
Anderson told NBC 5 that mentoring has helped him and that he thinks it could help others.
“Teaching me how to grow as a person. It’s teaching me my responsibilities on what I got to do in life to succeed,” Anderson said. “They need to be on the right path, have the right person by their side. Just keep going.”
Rodgers stressed the importance of funding for the mentor programs.