06/23/2010 11:07 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Con Games: Aspen's Keystone Kops

Want to commit a crime on your summer vacation? Consider the advantages of sumptuous Aspen, Colorado, where the local City constables are likely to either be lenient or lose the evidence entirely.

Among the missing evidence at the Aspen Police Department (APD), according to a story in the Aspen Daily News, was "a sword used in a 2004 assault, two miniskirts, lidocaine and syringes, a 'victim's white panties' from a 2009 case, a glass dove seized in 2003, and a sports drink stolen from City Market."

I'm not sure which is more upsetting--the sword or the sports drink. Aspen's Keystone Kops did find a stray batch of cash in their coffers--$6,000 in all--but has no idea where it should go. On the other hand, $4,683 in cash from a 2001 theft was and is nowhere to be found. In Aspen, that's what we call a wash.

"In all," according to the newspaper, "the auditors reported counting errors or missing funds in 43 out of 54 currency cases surveyed -- an 80 percent error rate."

Of course, the litany of the missing pieces should not be surprising after Denver's own Professional Police Consulting scrutinized 172 Aspen criminal cases and found 130 pieces of evidence wanting in some way, shape, or form. The APD has since been revisiting over 1,500 pieces of evidence, according to the story, trying ever-so-hard to make things right with a good will and a well-oiled bar-code reader.

Unfortunately, this is no joke. The audit came about after the APD mishandled the evidence surrounding the case against Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun of Carbondale, accused of raping a woman near an Aspen apartment building in January 2009. A jury was unable to convict and the defendant cut a deal: 14 years in prison for cocaine possession and intent to distribute, along with other charges. Rather than a rape conviction, he pled down to a charge of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault.

But this is Aspen, where crime never really seems to happen, and people love to look the other way. Missing evidence is the price we pay for just another day in Paradise.