Summer of ‘10 west of 31st better than ‘09
After the summer of '09, a larger-than-normal transient population was causing so many crime-related problems along Colorado Avenue west of 31st Street that a
merchant group formed in that area and sought government help.
A year later, concerns still exist, although not at previous levels that included burglaries, drugs and fires, according to Police Officer Brett Iverson of the PD's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and Robert Maez, a Red Rock shopping center businessman who helped start the area's Avenue Merchants Association.
“We're starting to see a little rise in loitering,” Maez said in a phone call Sept. 1. “There's a guy passed out behind the dumpsters in back right now.”
But on the whole, Maez credited an increased police presence - particularly officers from Metro Vice and Narcotics Investigation (VNI) - for keeping the area under control in recent months. They aren't in the area as much anymore, but he is regularly reporting problems he notices, in keeping with police comments that they tend to spend more time in areas that have higher numbers of reports.
It's not as if he has to look around too much. There are current problems with vagrancy and trespassing, such as a couple who approach shoppers and offer to wash their car windows. “People don't come here [to the shopping center] to have their windows washed,” he pointed out.
One factor that has “helped a lot,” according to Maez, is the no-camping ordinance, passed by City Council last winter. Since the law took effect in March, the estimated 500 or so people camping outside have dropped to 100 or so - even though the HOT team (which meets regularly with the homeless population) still has yet to write a single citation. Warnings and/or offers of help finding jobs or homes have usually sufficed, according to Iverson.
In the area west of 31st, the outcome has been virtually no permanent camps this summer, Iverson said. “It's nothing like it was.”
He admitted that his team has not been as active in the past few weeks - ironically, it's because they've been assigned to spend time preparing a powerpoint presentation related to their being finalists for an international “problem-oriented policing” award. However, he said, HOT has taken action in the past week on two Westside areas near Fountain Creek where transients have been gathering. These are behind the Red Rock shopping center and around 29th and Cucharras streets.
In conjunction with the latter issue, HOT is also working with City Parks to “cut some growth out” of city land south of 29th Street to make that area less inviting for camping or partying, Iverson said.
As for the guy passed out by the Red Rock dumpsters, Maez said he's seen the man before and that after he got off the phone he planned to go back there, “tap him on the shoe and see if he's OK.” He guessed that the man was inebriated. “If he's unable to function, I'll have no choice but to call 911 and report it as a medical. I can't just leave him there like that.”
Westside Pioneer article