DENVER — Law enforcement and Downtown Denver Partnership leaders say they feel optimistic for long-term safety improvements downtown following initial results from the latest Together We Will initiative, which launched in November 2022.
Data from the Denver Police Department shows large spikes in crime reports in key categories, which officials say indicates increased vigilance from residents and enforcement from officers and outreach coordinators.
Together We Will, a joint effort between the DDP and the city of Denver, brings together 40 organizations, including law enforcement and mental health outreach, to create a multifaceted response to crime and security downtown.
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In a town hall with business owners and community members, agency officials shared data and stories from their first months under the new framework, and said they have seen more traction than with previous attempts because of the partnership between law enforcement and mental health resources.
Still, members of the panel discussion — which included representatives from DDP, the Regional Transportation District (RTD), Denver PD, and Denver City Attorney Kerry Tipper — said assisting those suffering from mental health and substance misuse disorders has been challenging.
Since the launch in November, police have issued 182 arrests and summons, and outreach coordinators have given 88 referrals to treatment and resources, but only 8 individuals have accepted a direct connection to support.
Mandy Fiegel, an outreach case coordinator supervisor with the Denver Police Department, says that has been a big challenge and illustrates the need for long-term commitment. Fiegel’s team of coordinators is on the ground day to day, working to get those with mental health and addiction struggles into long-term care.
“What’s going on downtown, it’s not a simple fix,” Fiegel said. “I think anyone in this field would agree that it is tough, but it just takes that one time. However, a lot of times, it is building rapport with someone. So with the outreach case coordinators, they’re continuing to go down there.”
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Jerry and Jamie Orten, residents of lower downtown Denver, attended the town hall, and say they have witnessed the decline of the area during the pandemic, as well as the recent marked improvement. They have especially noticed the improvements at Union Station, which they live near.
“I think we’re on the way up again, as far as the safety issues,” Jamie said. “There’s still a lot of people living on the streets and having problems and being resistant to help — because there’s a lot of help out there, and we just wish people would use it.”
“I think the Union Station, lower downtown area has gotten a lot of attention from the city, from RTD, from various agencies and so forth, and so things have really changed in lower downtown” Jerry added. “I think what we’re interested in is seeing that sort of change occur throughout the city, so that it’s not just pushing the problem somewhere else but actually solving these problems.”
The Ortens say they use the Clean & Safe Downtown Denver app daily to report issues they come across, and have been impressed by timely responses from city, police and RTD responders. The Downtown Denver Partnership encourages all who frequent downtown to download the app, which is available for free in the App Store and Google Play.