For the first time, a private security firm will be hired to patrol the 16th Street Mall. Additional Denver police officers will also be visible on the mall, some assigned to specific blocks.
The private officers will be in uniform, but will not be armed or have the same powers as police. The Downtown Denver Partnership and top city officials hope the presence of the officers will improve safety, in addition to making people feel safer.
Mayor Michael Hancock said the plan has been in the works for some time, but the announcement comes after a string of media reports highlighting recent violence on the mall.
"We will not and I want to be very clear about this, will not tolerate those who have no other intention than to harass people along the mall, to commit violent threatening acts," said Mayor Hancock.
The Downtown Denver Partnership will not release exact figures about the private security plan. President and CEO, Tami Door, could not say how many private officers will be hired or how much the effort will cost. She would only say the overall security plan will cost about $1 million.
Denver is trying to deal with a problem the mayor called "urban travelers." At one point during the press conference he also referred to the issue as a "scourge of hoodlums."
"We’re not talking about Denver’s homeless… we’re talking about groups of people hanging out in the mall area who we call urban travelers," said Mayor Hancock.
According to the City of Denver, it is investing $650,000 in the improved safety efforts. Money will go toward tripling the number of officers who are part of the Walk the Beat program on 16th Street. Currently five officers are part of the initiative.
Police Chief Robert White also said officers will crackdown on trespassing violations. He said someone leaning against a wall within the property lines of a business could be ticketed or arrested.
"If they’re not violating the law obviously there’s not much we can do, but if they’re violating the law we’re going to be there and we’re going to enforce it," said Chief White.
A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a statement in response to the plan.
"These new police measures are rife with potential for overzealous enforcement. We will be watching closely for violations of individual rights and civil liberties," said John Krieger, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Colorado.
Security Plan Timeline:
- A Downtown Security Action Plan was completed in January. It includes more than 240 suggestions called actions items. The ideas range from improved lighting to better communication with area business owners.
- In April, the Downtown Denver Partnership and Downtown Denver Business Improvement District requested proposals for a private security contractor. 12 firms responded to the request.
- A decision on the security contract is expected in July.
- In the meantime, the Denver Police Department will begin adding more officers through its Walk the Beat program.
- Police will reevaluate their efforts in September.