DENVER (KDVR) — On Wednesday, FOX31 learned that more than 180 arrests have taken place in what has been described as a troubled downtown Denver.
These are the areas around the 16th Street Mall and the Convention Center, also known as the Convention Center corridor. Those arrests are all part of a major effort to make downtown safer.
The area on Wednesday appeared to be calmer and cleaner. Some people attending a Convention from Chicago gave it a thumbs up for safety.
“I don’t think I worry. I’ve seen a few cops here and there, so I don’t feel too bad. My Uber driver warned me about the homeless population, to be careful,” Karina Martinez said.
Downtown effort addresses safety concerns
Back in November, the Downtown Denver Partnership launched a massive effort to make the Convention Center corridor safer. Since then, teams that include police, social workers and cleaning crews have been working trying to lower crime here, as well as the number of people being harassed.
“This is an area of vulnerability that we need to address. We have to address this and we have a public safety concern that we want to be handled,” said Ryan Ertman, Downtown Denver Partnership’s director of safety and security.
In the past three months in the area, teams have tried to get social services for 506 people. Those services include contacts for outreach and education.
Law enforcement officers said they had to come up with a system that helped them get services for a range of issues.
Sending them to jail just was not working. They were behind bars one minute and back on the streets a short while later.
‘Dramatic contrast and change’
Still, 182 people have been arrested. Graffiti has been painted over. Sidewalks have been cleaned.
The owner of Sportsfan, on the 16th Street Mall, said thefts are way down and families are coming back slowly — key indicators, he said, that things are improving.
“What I’ve seen is a dramatic contrast and change. I can now see women and kids at night taking pictures, admiring the sights and experiencing downtown,” Derek Friedman said.
Some people, though, are still afraid to visit the area — sometimes.
“It’s a little scary. I don’t come down here at night. During the day it’s OK. There are lots of people, but not at night,” Denver native Ayesha Nichols said.
She wonders why there are so few people in what is traditionally a very busy area.
“Last night, I came here to find dinner around 6 o’clock, and it was weird to see everything was pretty much closed off,” Nichols said.
Many hope the Convention Center corridor returns to its glory days sooner than later.
The number of people going to the area is now a little more than half of what it used to be before the pandemic. The Downtown Denver Partnership said that’s a little higher than the national average for downtown areas.
Nights and weekends are back to pre-pandemic levels, they said. Still, they know there is a lot of work to be done.