DENVER — In the months since the launch of the Together We Will downtown safety initiative, hundreds of arrests, treatment referrals and outreach contacts have been made with individuals downtown, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP).
City and safety personnel say it has resulted in noticeable improvement in many places downtown, while also acknowledging that it will be a long process to address all concerns.
The DDP reports 235 arrests and summons have been issued downtown since the initiative’s launch in November, along with 25 public health violation notices. While increased law enforcement action is a key part of the Together We Will plan, leaders stress it must be joined in equal parts with services outreach.
“It’s really important that we continue to hone in on this theme of a holistic approach, of a theme that is very much equal parts enforcement and compassionate response,” Kourtny Garrett, president of the DDP, said at a public meeting Thursday. “That is what the situation on our streets, that is what our community is calling for today.”
Denver7 spoke with KayLee Salinas, an outreach case coordinator with the Denver Police Department, about the renewed approach to downtown safety and cleanliness under the new initiative. Salinas and her six fellow case coordinators are not officers, and work in tandem but not directly with law enforcement.
“It’s not just sitting at a desk. It’s out here reaching people, trying to connect them to services,” Salinas said. “We’re readily available to be there when they’re ready to [accept services]. And, it’s that follow up piece of, if they’re not ready right then, to be there when they are ready. So, it’s boots on the ground.”
Since the launch of the Together We Will initiative, coordinators have made 790 contacts with people on the streets, and referred 176 individuals to treatment and support, according to the DDP. The next crucial part, though, is out of their hands and more elusive: only 24 of their connections agreed to accept direct support.
Salinas says the long process can feel frustrating at times, but also knows that it is through repeated contacts that trust is built with the individuals she’s working to connect with. She also says the numbers don’t capture the unofficial forms of help that she and her fellow coordinators are giving every day.
“Success and engagement looks so different for everybody,” she explained. “Giving a bus ticket to someone to go get their food stamps is a success for that person, because now they’re not hungry.”
Coordinating efforts between the 40 organizations partaking in Together We Will has also be instrumental in seeing more success, according to Salinas. An increase in traffic and cleaner streets have helped lift the overall mood of downtown areas. Since November, crews have painted over more than 37,000 square feet of graffiti and pressure washed more than 2,600 square feet of sidewalks.
“We are out there, boots on the ground, day after day — working hard to benefit everybody on the streets,” Salinas said. “This is our Denver, and we’re doing the best we can to make it really available and fun for everyone.”