Task force to examine how cities use public nuisance ordinances

DENVER — Two days after a Problem Solvers investigation exposed Denver’s public nuisance ordinance, a state task force has recommended shining a light on how much money cities are collecting from the process.

Under Denver’s public nuisance law, a cab driver was arrested for prostitution. Police seized a taxi and charged the owner $1,000 to get it back even though he was later acquitted.

Denver made $2.4 million last year through the ordinance. Critics say the law violates a person’s due process rights.

A task force appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper wants cities to share how much money they’re making, how often they use the ordinance and how often charges are later dismissed or the person is found not guilty.

“I’m concerned that the local public nuisance ordinances have been used too broadly and people have been having a hard time getting their property back when they’re not charged or convicted with a crime,” State Rep. Lisa Herod of Denver said.

Herod hopes to use Wednesday’s recommendation to sponsor a new bill.

The proposed law would collect information about public nuisance ordinances and mandate the information be shared in a public database to help determine if cities are using the measure as an improper money grab.