Colorado is renowned for its breathtaking mountains, diverse wildlife, and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities. However, alongside these natural wonders, the state grapples with a disconcerting issue: a surge in violent crime, reaching a 25-year peak. Among Colorado’s cities, one stands out as the most perilous: Pueblo.
Pueblo’s homicide problem
Pueblo, a city with approximately 112,000 residents in the southern region of Colorado, boasts the state’s highest homicide rate, ranking among the nation’s most alarming. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, Pueblo recorded 18 homicides in 2020, resulting in a rate of 16.1 per 100,000 residents. This staggering statistic dwarfs the national average of 3.8 and surpasses Colorado’s average of 6.4.
Pueblo’s homicide rate has exhibited a relentless upward trajectory since 2015, when it stood at 8.6 per 100,000. In 2019, it reached an all-time high of 18.9 per 100,000, securing Pueblo’s title as Colorado’s murder capital for the sixth consecutive year. To put this into perspective, Denver, the state’s most populous city with over 700,000 inhabitants, reported a homicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000 in 2020.
What is driving the violence?
Determining the root causes of Pueblo’s violence is no straightforward task. Experts and authorities have identified several contributing factors, including poverty, gang presence, drug-related issues, domestic violence, and mental health challenges. Pueblo’s poverty rate, standing at 22%, surpasses both the state average of 10% and the national average of 13%. The city has a historical association with gang activity and drug trafficking, particularly involving heroin and methamphetamine.
Some of Pueblo’s homicides stem from domestic disputes or personal conflicts that escalate into deadly violence. For instance, in January 2020, a man tragically shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend before taking his own life. In August 2020, a woman fatally stabbed her husband following an argument over finances.
Other homicides appear random or unprovoked, often resulting from drive-by shootings or failed robbery attempts. In July 2020, a man lost his life when an unidentified assailant shot him while he was walking his dog near his home. In October 2020, a woman was shot and killed while sitting in her car at a gas station, targeted by a man attempting to rob her.
What is being done to stop the violence?
Pueblo’s police department has been diligently working to resolve these homicides and prevent future incidents. They have bolstered their workforce, established a dedicated homicide unit, formed partnerships with federal agencies and community organizations, and adopted new technologies and strategies to combat crime.
However, solving this issue requires more than law enforcement alone. Public cooperation and support, particularly from witnesses and victims who may be reluctant to come forward due to fear or distrust, are essential. Additionally, law enforcement agencies require increased resources and funding to address the underlying causes of violence, such as poverty, education, mental health, and substance abuse.
Pueblo boasts numerous positive attributes, including its rich history, cultural diversity, and unique charm. Nevertheless, the city is grappling with formidable challenges contributing to its high homicide rate. The community must unite to confront these challenges and seek solutions that will ensure a safer environment for all of Pueblo’s residents.