PUEBLO — People in Pueblo are growing concerned over the fact that crimes, like stealing cars, will not land someone behind bars right now.
Michael Coffee says he noticed more and more people posting on Facebook about their stolen cars and struck up a conversation about his concerns.
“My friend’s like 'Well, they’re not arresting any non-violent criminals'...I’m like… What?!”
That's when Coffee called the Sheriff's Department and spoke with a deputy.
“He just reiterated that it is because of the Coronavirus. Not necessarily that it’s the DA’s fault or the Sheriff’s fault, but they had made the decision not to let people in who are non-violent offenders because there is such a high rate of Coronavirus."
Coffee says when he asked the deputy what he should do if he sees someone breaking into his vehicle, the response was "Let them go".
Pueblo County's jail is 93% full at the moment, and still considered a hotspot for COVID-19. However, pandemic or no pandemic, law enforcement agencies say that they do not make the call whether or not someone will spend time behind bars after being arrested.
“It’s kind of a misinformation that the Sheriff has any kind of power whatsoever to decide who comes to jail and who doesn’t come to jail. We have to interpret what the courts are saying and we have to do what the law says," said J.R. Hall, Under Sheriff of Pueblo County.
Currently, crimes that fall under the Victim's Crime Act (VRA) will land someone in a jail cell in Pueblo, but not necessarily property crimes.
“All of these things are going to be coming to an end when the courts say that they come to an end or when legislatures change the law and we enforce something differently.”
However, Coffee believes this problem is going to lead to vigilantes in the community.
“It’s not just us that feel helpless, It’s the police and the sheriff’s deputies that feel helpless because they’re trying to uphold the rules and they can’t," said Coffee.
Hall says the Sheriff's Department empathizes with the way community members are feeling.
"We work for the community, and the community is frustrated with some of the things that are occurring. We can see that. We're certainly frustrated as much as the community is, because we're community."
You can offer feedback to the Sheriff's department here.