Pueblo County officials meet to discuss rising crime, staffing shortage

Crime in Pueblo has risen 13 percent -- but there are fewer law enforcement to fight it.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:18 PM MST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 7:22 AM MST
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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - As crime rises and the number of city and county staff falls, Pueblo County is struggling to keep up.

That’s according to the 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner. He met with Pueblo Police, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol to discuss this issue. During the meeting, officials looked back at 2022 before discussing how to move forward.

According to Chostner, crime across Pueblo has risen 13%, and there are fewer members of law enforcement to fight it. He says county staff is down 40% from where they want to be. That includes the police, sheriff’s office, State Patrol and even the DA’s office.

Police Chief Chris Noeller said he has been meeting with agencies across southern Colorado, specifically in the city of Pueblo, to discuss how to keep up with rising crime numbers.

“Manpower invariably is the number one conversation that comes up,” Noeller said.

Noeller has been working in law enforcement for 29 years. He said throughout the years, he has seen the number of applications rise and drop constantly; however, he said the dip he is seeing now is more extreme than he’s ever seen.

Chostner said this is why everyone is meeting.

“We are all working together, we are not working in our own individual silos,” he said. “There’s cross information that’s going on to make sure we can do everything we can in each of our respective areas to bring crime down.”

Each organization is working to recruit more people. Noeller said there was a slight uptick in applicants to the police department, and he hopes to see the trend continue. Meanwhile, the city of Pueblo introduced more internship opportunities.

In addition, Chostner said he will be pushing for legislation to help the various agencies fight crime and keep criminals off the street. He said he has been critical of recently passed legislation that lowers the severity of certain crimes.

For example, in 2019, Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law that changed the severity of drug possession. This law lowered some felony charges to misdemeanor charges. And in 2021, the misdemeanor reform law was signed, changing certain misdemeanors to petty offenses.

“There’s a whole variety of areas that I don’t think we have the support from the legislature that we need,” Chostner said.

He added that his office will be pushing for legislation that puts downgraded crimes back to the felony level. He also said he hopes for more legislation aimed at helping his office, and law enforcement as a whole, tackle fentanyl and car jacking.

Another area Chostner said he is urging change in is requirements for bail.

“So often the public sees someone has been let out of jail,” he said.

Pueblo police said they have seen an increase in inmates at the jail, and the county is working on construction of a new one.

By keeping criminals in jail who county officials say should be held, as well as getting more boots on the ground, officials said they believe this will lower crime and bring more businesses to the city.