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Denver's STAR Advisory Committee shares concerns over new neighborhood safety office

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Posted at 4:27 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 19:36:33-04

DENVER — As Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s administration prepares to shift $11 million away from Denver’s Office of Public Safety to a new Office of Neighborhood Safety, members of Denver’s STAR Community Advisory Committee are concerned about the impact this will have on the STAR Program.

Johnston announced Monday that the city will transfer $11 million, along with 65 employees, from the Department of Safety to the new Office of Neighborhood Safety. The new office will house the city’s youth safety programs, the Denver A.I.D. Center, the Office of Community Violence Solutions and part of the STAR Program.

The Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program serves as an alternative to policing by sending behavioral health counselors to low-risk dispatch calls.

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“So what we understand with the transition of STAR being under this Office of Social Equity, and in turn the Office of Neighborhood Safety, is that it means that one position that previously was under safety for 911, the operations director, will now be under the Office of Neighborhood Safety. So that's the most immediate and tangible change that we know is going to happen,” said Vinnie Cervantes, co-chair of the STAR Community Advisory Committee. “We've also been told too in that process, they might also dissolve our advisory committee, with the idea that we might be on the community board that oversees the new office. But that's not a guarantee.”

Cervantes said the committee was created three years ago to be a community voice within the program. 

“The STAR Community Advisory Committee was created in 2021 as a permanent, lasting mechanism of community input, accountability, oversight voice to drive this program from the people that created it because it is a creation of the community, not of the city. And so this is a way to continue to influence the program, to keep it accountable, to give input to it. And you know, it really is the way that the community can be involved in something that best serves their needs, in a way that is transformative, like the program itself is,” Cervantes said. “We fought for this committee. It's something that we were promised by the city that would live permanently with the program STAR, as many of us that are on the committee that created this program.”

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Denver

STAR Advisory Committee hopes to have more input on program's future

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4:10 PM, Apr 04, 2023

In 2022, the STAR Community Advisory Committee expressed concerns after the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, the administrative arm of the program, suspended meetings with the committee following months of disagreements over how the program was run.

“We're in a process of healing with DDPHE and the thing they committed to us was codifying our committee. So, to have this up now, again, we don't know where that leaves us with DDPHE,” Cervantes said.

Kayla Frawley, a STAR Community Advisory Committee member, was in attendance when Johnston announced his plans for the Office of Neighborhood Safety.

“I think that the administration seemed very careful in announcing that they're launching this office without much detail yet,” Frawley said. “The press conference is not something that the STAR Advisory Committee members were invited to explicitly, and so that is a little bit concerning, as well.”

Frawley said she is hopeful the Johnston administration will keep the committee intact.

“I'm really curious on how the administration plans to integrate STAR and the community advisory committee within their plan of wanting to open a new community advisory committee for the Office of Social Equity and Innovation,” Frawley said. “It's always best to do some deep listening and community to understand the programming that's already happening before making an announcement like this.”

Frawley and Cervantes said they appreciate the mayor’s intentions, but his plans should include the voices that helped create the program.

Denver's STAR Advisory Committee concerned over new neighborhood safety office


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