Welcome to Denver where you will be violently attacked and possibly die

Welcome to Denver where you will be violently attacked and possibly die

16th-street-mall-pipe-attack

How I feel the media describes it after seeing, reading or hearing a headline:

~Denver’s 16th street mall violence is growing to epic proportions

~The Sky is falling in Denver, it’s all out war down on the 16th street mall

~Man brutally beaten with pipe on the 16th street mall (I saw the video the guy that got hit had a laceration and the man     swinging the pipe was arrested)

~Welcome to Denver where you will be violently attacked and possibly die

~Denver police standing around doing nothing while people are viciously attacked on the 16th street mall

~Denver’s homeless smoking crack and shooting up in the allies

~Stay away from the 16th street mall folks, nothing to see here…unless you want to get beat up by a homeless person…and possibly die

Not to make light of it, but…why is it that the media always over sensationalizes every little thing?

The 16th street mall and I am a native of Colorado has always had a problem with transients, some years are better than others. Back in the early 90’s Denver had a problem with transients being aggressive and passing out all over, in front of clubs, restaurants, shops etc.

They normally fight and attack each other more often than not, now they are going for people who might actually have something worth some value that they can take and then try to sell.

Denver, Colorado

Denver tried a few years back to create a “no-solicitation zone” along the 16th street mall which gave the ACLU the opportunity to get involved and win an injunction that prohibited the city from implementing that ordinance.  

The reason being was simple of course. The ACLU’s argument was that it is really hard to regulate speech in public spaces without running into the first amendment.

If memory serves, Denver doesn’t have a loitering ordinance, but even if they did, all the police can do is ask people to move along, away from the mall. If you look at it from a constitutional aspect, that law even more difficult to enforce because then you get into things like “selective” enforcement of the law, which can lead to other issues such as profiling etc.

A few years ago I lived right on 16th Ave a walk out the back door and I was on the 16th street mall. When the police politely tried to encourage the transients away from the mall, they ended up in my neighborhood full of houses, condo’s and some schools. A residential area.

Long story short is that, even that became problematic for the police. Homeowners feared going out after dark, most don’t have a garage when living in the city and some day’s you have to park a good distance away from where you live…that was a scary walk or two through the jungle.

Across the street from my place was a plastic surgery center and next to it was a vacant home. The plastic surgery center would allow for those of us in our condo’s to park in their parking lot at night and on the weekends.

Well, that vacant home became prime real estate to the transients, I lost track of how many times the police showed up to get them off of that property, and from camping out at it. In the end however, our cars were broken into several times, neighbors and I were harassed going to and from our cars, some people were shoved, hit, pushed and what not. Some mornings when heading out to work, we’d call in late after having found a homeless person asleep on our doorstep, some were so violent you didn’t dare wake them, you either called the police or hoped something would rouse them sooner or later so that you could get to work.

In February of this year, the DPD were called out to the now closed plastic surgery center because as luck would have it, someone broke into the vacant building, through the roof.

The point of that little story is simply contrary to what the Mayor said roughly 5 days ago where, he stated that part of the violence problems down on the mall are due to the legalization of cannabis, it’s not, it’s been on it’s way to escalation since before cannabis legalization happened.

From 2008-2013 when I finally begrudgingly moved out of the downtown area I noticed the transient population growing and becoming more and more aggressive.

But I do love the effort to blame the legalization of cannabis…without having any proof of that being even part of the reason as to why people are being attacked whilst strolling down the 16th street mall.

Denver is however, very tolerant of the transient community and always without fail has been, when those individuals behave and are non-aggressive.

Denver has tried many different avenues in an effort to curb the problem as well as the aggressive behavior that come along with a transient community living in parallel to a working society.

I do see a lot of blame being thrown at the DPD’s feet for lack of having “enough” officers at the mall at all hours of the day and night. Trust me, as far as the world is concerned, you are never going to please everyone and so…the police could not possibly have enough officers at the 16th street mall in someone’s eyes.

At the same time it really isn’t fair to blame the police department either. They cannot be everywhere at all times. And District 6 does have officers already assigned to the mall, they patrol it all the time.

Pulling officers from other active areas throughout the city creates potential problems in whatever area the officers were pulled from.

Approving OT is a great idea but officers can’t work 24/7 nonstop they do need a break from time to time as well.  Additionally, does DPD have a plan to hire more officers for that part of town or…

The other problem is that yes, sure the police can arrest the problem children, but guess what they do get out of jail eventually and where do you think they end up? Yes our courts can fine them but they aren’t working currently I’m guessing they are not going to be enticed to try to find a job just to pay a court ordered fine either.

When the transients do get money, they tend to spend it on alcohol, well store owners can consider refusing to sell them any, the store owners know the homeless community much better than the police do after all.

OF course that could also enrage the transient and cause a small issue in the store.

The 16th street mall could be privatized or the city could enforce the aggressive panhandling ordinance, in either case it only moves the problem away from the mall and over to another highly populated area for instance, Rino, Highlands, Cherry Creek, further south down Broadway and into residential areas.  

Besides, the Denver police announced last October that they would no longer be enforcing the city’s aggressive panhandling ordinance, because a similar ban in Grand Junction was ruled as a violation of panhandlers’ first amendment rights. So that’s out.

I should note here that Denver does have a law that prohibits being aggressive in an attempt to get money from a passersby which is not considered the same as aggressive panhandling. The problem is that it’s often under reported and when it is, it’s after the fact making it difficult for police to track down the transient.  

In case you didn’t notice my not to subtle hint here, solving the issue isn’t going to be that easy.

Finding a way to curb the violence is just a start. Society in general seems to be becoming more and more violent and although the reality is violence is everywhere we look, online, on tv, every newscast, social media, etc.

As much as we dislike it, our species has always been violent, so when the media suggests we are becoming immune to it, that is untrue. It is more publicized now than it ever was, and violence tends to grow at the same rate that society in general does.

A bigger society means that it is more prone to outbursts of violence. Add other things like lax laws, poor oversight, not having enough police, not enforcing the laws, the inability to read minds, therefore enabling law enforcement to know when a predator is going to strike, etc…All of that, well that creates a perfect storm.

Everything we do has a cause and then subsequent effect

Everyone can come to the table with plausible solutions to Denver’s 16th street mall problem, the questions are, how to implement those solutions and more importantly, are they long term solutions?

I mentioned some solutions above, while some seem really great, in the grand scheme of things they are short term. Short term solutions to me are the same as sweeping something under the carpet and just hoping it isn’t under the carpet the next time we look.

We basically throw a log doused in fuel into the fire and hope for the best just hoping that it keeps us warm for a really loooong time. The log usually burns through and we have to add another…

What’s more is that some of the very solutions I mentioned while they do sound great will push the problem further into residential areas and other upscale heavily populated areas of the city.

I lived near the mall when that happened a few years ago. Try living in a residential area just blocks away from the Mall, an area the transients moved to after having been kicked out of the mall area. That residential area lacks camera’s, lighting, shops, a witness, it does offer more hiding places for a transient.

Beefing up patrols is a good start if the DPD has the manpower to keep it up, arresting the transients however will only serve as short term solutions to long term problems. Moreover, again is that beefing up patrols long term or just through the end of this summer?

The point is, I hope the city is looking at more long term solutions that actually have the effect everyone is seeking.

I guess for now time will tell, we could always wait it out until next summer…

Cristal M Clark

@thecrimeshop

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Video shows man violently attacking people on 16th Street Mall; suspect arrested