One of the most contentious issues for voters in Pueblo this election season involves the future of retail marijuana.
A group associated with the 2 major hospitals in Pueblo, calling themselves Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo, have stated adamantly, as if it were proven fact, that crime has increased substantially since marijuana legalization.
Well, despite superior scientific training in medicine, these citizens seem to know nothing at all about data analysis.
Let’s look at crime statistics published by the State of Colorado to explore whether claims of dramatically increased criminal activity are valid. I downloaded all data presented below from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation on the State of Colorado’s official web portal. You’ll see reports from both the Pueblo Police Department and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office are included in each chart.
There are eight major crime categories reported by law enforcement agencies: arson, assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, murder/manslaughter, rape and robbery (in alphabetical order). I’ve compiled data for the time period 2009-2015 illustrating 7 years of reported crimes with 2009-2013 data reflecting crime rates prior to marijuana legalization and 2014-2015 showing crime rates after legalization went into effect.
There are two anomalies worth noting in these data.
- First, reports of rape by the Pueblo Police Department skyrocketed in 2013 (before marijuana legalization). My best guess is there was some sort of change in reporting criteria or some other irregularity since I don’t recall hearing about an explosion of rape incidents. Perhaps someone from the Pueblo PD can explain the eight-fold increase between 2012 and 2013?
- Second, 2012 appears to have been an extraordinarily quiet year for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office. To me, it looks like only a portion of crime data was reported for 2012. Perhaps the County Sheriff’s office could clarify?
I have no expertise in criminal justice so maybe I’m missing something here. That said, I do have expertise in data analysis and in my opinion there’s absolutely no justification whatsoever for claims of an increase in crime since marijuana was legalized in January 2014.
In fact, you might more convincingly argue crime is down looking at the assault, larceny/theft, and robbery categories. If you look at data reported by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s office you can see crime rates trending down in nearly every category since 2013. Good job Sheriff Taylor!
So, since all retail marijuana outlets are currently located outside Pueblo city limits, should we conclude retail marijuana has reduced crime? Well, no. I don’t see that either. Concluding crime is down due to marijuana legalization would be a dishonest interpretation of the data….sort of like violating the Hippocratic Oath.
Now who would stoop so low to deceive the good citizens of Pueblo?