DENVER (KDVR) — Police officials with the Denver Police Department and Regional Transportation District spoke to the FOX31 Problem Solvers for the first time on camera about all of the lawlessness around the iconic landmark that is Union Station.
But is the law part of the problem?
“For those people that continue to break the law I think it’s incumbent upon us to hold them accountable,” DPD Division Chief Ron Thomas told FOX31’s Joshua Short.
“Well, obviously, it’s a horrible situation … we’re not happy with any of this,” RTD’s Chief of Police and Emergency Management Bob Grado told the Problem Solvers.
High-ranking officials from both DPD and RTD are on high alert about the alarming situation at Union Station’s bus terminals.
“RTD is — in essence — a victim just like any other business trying to operate in the downtown area,” Grado said.
Finding a solution to a problem so brazen requires getting to the bare bones of why it’s happening.
“I think the real challenge of what we’re seeing is really kind of a confluence of individuals who have drug addiction, experiencing homelessness and service resistant,” Thomas said.
“A lot of these people are being cited because that’s an offense not jailable anymore today,” Grado said adding: “it’s a misdemeanor offense and you would have to have a large quantity of drugs on your possession.”
Thursday night, the FOX31 Problem Solvers highlighted this issue. State law says any person who possesses drug paraphernalia commits a drug petty offense. The fine, no more than $100.
“Certainly a stiffer penalty creates greater leverage,” Thomas said.
Also he said they’ve directed other assets from elsewhere in the city, including visible patrol, undercover officers and even mental health officials.
“We’re also bringing mental health clinicians, substance abuse navigators, to kind of meet people where they’re at and help them address their issues,” Thomas confirmed.
The FOX31 Digital Data Desk analyzed crime data from the past two years.
Last month, when Mayor Hancock announced an increase in police patrols at Union Station, there were 70 drug and alcohol offenses, according to DPD.
So how are local businesses doing and adjusting? The FOX31 Problem Solvers ended up with two different viewpoints.
“We have complaints from inside Union Station, the surrounding businesses at Union Station, our data reflects that,” Thomas told us. The Data Desk confirms these numbers.
However, FOX31 received this statement from Union Station:
We contract a security company to work with us to provide a safe environment within the walls of the historic Denver Union Station building, which encompasses the hotel, the Great Hall and partner dining and retail establishments. That team, along with our operations team, works diligently to provide a safe and welcoming experience for guests and patrons within the historic building. We, along with our partners, receive ongoing positive feedback about the experience at the hotel, in the Great Hall and at our partner establishments.
The data from DPD provides a better picture that businesses – including Union Station — are indeed impacted.
DPD and RTD police are working tirelessly to address this problem. But until it’s solved, the Problem Solvers will stay on top of the story, from all angles.