Denver’s Union Station continues to face issues; what the city is doing about it

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — The FOX31 Problem Solvers are following up on our extensive reporting surrounding the city’s cleanup efforts at Denver’s Union Station.

Last month, we told you how the iconic historic landmark has become a site of trash, drug use and lawlessness.

FOX31’s Joshua Short was there Thursday and spoke with an anonymous RTD bus driver about the issues there.

That RTD driver sent us disturbing images that FOX31 had to blur out, showing the squalor people have to travel through.

It’s a reality we told you about in December and nothing’s really changed in the city’s so-called living room. There were no signs of improvement inside or outside the station Thursday night.

“It’s probably gotten worse,” the anonymous RTD driver told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

This RTD employee is fed up, sending us several foul photos taken over the past month both in and around Union Station.

He says he’s never seen it this bad since becoming an RTD employee over 15 years ago.

“They put a few more patrol out … but as soon as they walk away, people that are doing their drugs, they fire up their pipes,” the driver told us. “The bathrooms are even locked where they can’t even use the restroom [or drugs] so they’re going outside of the concourse where buses park.”

RTD told the Problem Solvers:

The restrooms remain temporarily closed, until such time permanent doors can be installed, and other measures can be put in place to ensure proper usage, as well as the safety and security of employees and customers.

RTD remains committed to addressing the unwelcomed behavior in and around Denver Union Station in seeking cooperative solutions with the City and County of Denver, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1001 that represents frontline employees.

Recognizing there is no quick fix to the societal problems that are on display, just today, RTD’s General Manager and CEO, Debra A. Johnson, Board Member Angie Rivera-Malpiede, and other leaders representing RTD, including the union President and Vice-President, met with Mayor Hancock, senior members of his administration and Command staff from Denver Police Department to discuss immediate and near-term strategies.

City officials confirmed at the meeting on Thursday: “Today, the Mayor and senior Public Safety officials met with leadership from RTD and the Transit Union to discuss additional actions that can be taken to address the ongoing safety challenges at Denver Union Station.”

The city also provided some new crime numbers, one month since Denver Mayor Michael Hancock increased police presence at Union Station.

  • November 2021, 101 arrests
  • December 2021, 183 arrests
  • Top five arrest violations for 2021:
    • Warrant – 236
    • Trespass – 124
    • Drug paraphernalia/possession – 71
    • Assault – 41
    • Shoplifting – 39
  • 22 individuals arrested 4 or more times in 2021

“The drivers are scared, some drivers are calling in, they don’t want to deal with this,” the anonymous RTD driver told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Meanwhile, we heard cold-blooded honesty from a man named Elton, who says he’s still doing drugs at Union Station, even after police recently fined him.

“I just tell people straight up ‘I need a couple of bucks to get high,’” Elton said.

He says he got a ticket for $100 just days ago.

Colorado law says any person who possesses drug paraphernalia commits a drug petty offense. The fine is not more than $100. But is that enough to curb the criminal behavior at Union Station?

“I’ve seen where they’ve gotten a ticket, they take it crunch it up and throw it away,” the RTD driver told us.

Union Station released this statement to the Problem Solvers:

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.

The Problem Solvers heard back from Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1001, the union that represents RTD workers. They said drivers and customers alike are frustrated because, despite the ongoing efforts from city officials, they’re still seeing drug use on or near their places of work.

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