DENVER (KDVR) — Concerns persist at the Union Station terminals, where transit workers and travelers continue to raise alarms about safety issues as drug users continue to congregate.
It’s been two months since the union representing RTD workers — Amalgamated Transit Union 1001 — brought attention to the issue. A union spokesperson said some RTD employees are calling out because of exposure to fentanyl smoke on trains.
On Monday near the terminals, it was still a sketchy scene. FOX31 spoke with a man who showed the fentanyl he was about to smoke.
“This is blue,” the man said. That’s the street name for fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. “I wish they never created it. … I wish I never done it, to be honest with you,” he said.
People say they are scared of and frustrated with the conditions. Rachel Richlinski, of Denver, has traveled through Union Station before. But she said last Thursday around 6 a.m., there was no visible security and no police nearby and a lot of people consuming drugs.
“The best way to describe it is that it was a zombie hold,” she said. “There were so, so many, I truly can’t put a number on how many. [They] had no human functions it seemed. Their bodies were moving in strange ways.”
She said a man approached her and verbally harassed her. She ran to a bus driver to get help and said the RTD driver told her, “I know, this is horrible, this is so unsafe, and no one will do anything about it.”
“From a distance, from the outside looking in, it’s this beautiful establishment, well-known iconic building in the city,” Richlinski said. “Why is it not like that downstairs? Is it because the city cares more about the trains than the buses? Or is it because it’s downstairs, so it’s out of the public eye, out of sight, out of mind?”
Denver officials respond
FOX31 reached out to the district attorney’s office for an interview about this. They declined the request, with a spokesperson saying in a statement:
“In the last six months, we have met with three registered neighborhood organizations in Union Station/LoDo and the majority of the concerns we hear are regarding homelessness, public urination, criminal trespassing, drug use and petty theft. With the exception of drug crimes, these issues are prosecuted by the Denver City Attorney’s office which enforces municipal/city violations. Therefore, I am respectfully declining your request.”
The Denver City Attorney’s Office said this in a statement: “The city has been working closely with RTD to restore Denver Union Station as a safe, secure, and welcoming facility.” It continues: “Since November, the Denver Police Department has increased enforcement efforts, including hundreds of hours of overtime in January alone and hundreds of arrests over the past few months.”
They also said that “the City and RTD are also working on several other actions that can be taken to improve safety, including increasing efforts to address drug use, drug dealing, and improper behavior in and around Denver Union Station.”
Union Station also sent FOX31 a statement: “The historic Denver Union Station building – which encompasses the Great Hall, The Crawford Hotel, as well as partner dining establishments and retail spaces – is a privately leased, privately operated entity. The Denver Union Station Alliance contracts an independent security team to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for our guests, our associates, and the community within our space. We support the ongoing efforts of the Denver Police Department and RTD who manage the security of the public transit areas and outdoor plazas.”