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Aurora police chief addresses violence in the city

Mayor Mike Coffman asked the chief to talk about gun violence during a study session after five people were shot at a gathering related to a Juneteenth celebration.

AURORA, Colo. — As of June 30, nearly 60 adults have survived gunshot wounds in Aurora this year according to the city's police department.  Non-fatal shootings are on pace to beat the number in 2020, which was 98 adults. 

During a study session on Monday, Chief Vanessa Wilson shared strategies the department is taking to combat violence in the city, while stressing the uptick in crime is happening nationwide. 

"I wish I had a magic pill that I could tell you exactly why this is happening," said Chief WIlson.

Mayor Mike Coffman asked Chief Wilson to talk about gun violence during a study session after five people were shot at a gathering related to a Juneteenth celebration. In that case, the Aurora Police Department (APD) said there were multiple shooters and investigators recovered more than 100 shell casings at the scene. 

RELATED: Aurora police investigating three separate shootings since Saturday

According to APD, 11 adults have been shot and killed in the city so far in 2021. That is equal to the total number of people killed by gunfire in 2019. In 2020, 31 adults were killed in shootings. 

The numbers are much higher for non-fatal shootings. In 2020, 98 adults survived gunshot wounds in the city. Since June 30 this year, 58 adults suffered gunshot wounds, according to the department. That means the city is on pace to see more than 100 people shot in 2021. 

"We are going to need to work with our district attorneys as well as our judicial system to keep the adults that are committing crimes in jail," said Chief Wilson. 

She's hoping to hire civilian positions within the police department that are currently staffed with sworn officers. This will allow officers to respond promptly and residents won't be waiting for hours. 

Wilson believes one of the possible reasons for the increase in violence across the country is COVID-19. She also said staffing issues within the department are limiting their ability to be proactive, which is causing delays for lower priority calls. 

Since January of 2020, 159 officers have left the department and 72 of those officers left this year.  

"The more officers I lose the less capability I have in not just answering calls for service but actually being proactive," said Chief Wilson.

Although a majority of shooting victims are adults, more than 10 minors have been shot, and survived, so far this year. The number was 13 in all of 2019 and 14 in 2020. 

"We definitely want to try to impact the youth before they are so far into the situation that they are going to become adults that are committing crimes," she said. 

The department also created a new Gang and Robbery Investigations Team to focus on cases where those two things overlap.

Just weeks before the shooting took place during a Juneteenth celebration, a group of community groups moved into that shopping mall to provide resources to families. 

"When people have the resources and they have what they need to sustain themselves, there are not going to be crimes," said Shana Shaw, founder of Compound of Compassion. 

She works to build a safe haven where people can heal from trauma and learn to pay it forward. Ray Washington, founder of Man Up and the Fatherhood Program, also provides services in this new center. He works to ensure fathers have healthy relationships with their children. 

"It is our duty, especially as men, in the community to pick this ball up for our young men," Washington said. 

These community groups provide different services but they believe they need to work together to make the community safer. 

"Business as usual is not working," said Washington. "So that means we have to come together and be innovative and creative."

RELATED: Aurora police blame COVID, jailing hurdles for record car thefts in 2020