Study: Legal Weed Lets Colorado Police Focus on Property Crime Arrests

See if this sounds familiar: “If cops don’t have to worry about arresting people for marijuana, they can pay attention to crimes that actually matter.”

Most of us have heard numerous variations of this argument over the years, but until 2012, it was just theoretical. Then Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, and researchers and statisticians started chomping at the bit.

Well, a few weeks ago a study was published in Police Quarterly that seems to possibly validate those types of claims – at least to an extent. After marijuana was legalized here, more violent crimes started being “cleared” by cops, and a lot more property crimes were “cleared.”

Since the change was so much more drastic for property crimes, we’ll focus on that for this piece, as well as what it means if you suddenly find yourself arrested or charged.

Colorado Property Crime Clearance by the Numbers

Using the handy charts published in the Washington Post, it shows that from January 2010 through September 2011, the clearance rate for property crimes in Colorado was steadily falling, from somewhere around 18 percent to 16 or 17 percent. Not great.

Then came legalization. By May 2013, the numbers had jumped, and they kept going up through January 2015 – from just over 20 percent clearance to somewhere between 23 and 24 percent. A pretty significant increase.

What does it mean though?

To understand, you need to know a bit about “clearance.”

How Colorado Police “Clear” a Crime and What It Means

When a crime is reported to the police, it essentially goes on their “books.” It’s an unsolved case. An open case that they are working on.

In order to clear a case, the cops typically need to arrest someone and turn them over to the courts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual in question will be charged, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be convicted.

What it does is allow the police to say that case has been closed. They did their job. They solved it.

So, if you break down what’s happening, not having to worry about policing marijuana has correlated to the police arresting more people for other crimes. It doesn’t say that those people were found guilty or that the cops were able to more thoroughly investigate. That we don’t know. It just shows that the police – arguably with more time on their hands – have been arresting more people.

Is this good? Bad? It depends on how the police are investigating and making their arrests. One thing is for sure though: whatever the reason, property crime arrests are on the rise. This means you need to know what constitutes a property crime in Colorado.

With Arrests Up, Know What Colorado Says Is a Property Crime

For the most part, understanding what counts as a property crime is pretty easy – it’s any crime involving property. Sometimes, property crimes may involve violence – or the threat of violence – against others, but property must be involved.

Some of the most common property crimes in our state include:

  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Defacing Property
  • Robbery
  • Tampering
  • Theft
  • Trespassing

Denver Property Crimes Lawyer

Depending on which of these crimes you are accused of committing, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges, and your consequences may involve fines, prison time, and more.

With cops apparently more able or willing to make arrests for these types of crimes, it is more important than ever to understand the law and what rights you have.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.