First look at the 16th Street Mall “private security team” plan

The Downtown Denver Partnership announced some details today about the “private security team” it intends to deploy on the 16th Street Mall.
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Warner Smith poses in the uniform of the new Downtown Denver Partnership’s “private security team.” (Adrian D. Garcia/Denverite)

Warner Smith poses in the uniform of the new Downtown Denver Partnership's "private security team." (Adrian D. Garcia/Denverite)

The Downtown Denver Partnership's new "private security team" hits 16th Street today armed with pepper spray and the goal of changing the perception of the mall.

The partnership and city are pitching in thousands of dollars to have the security officers continually stroll up and down the 16th Street Mall in their light blue uniforms and silver badges.

Though they could make citizens arrests, officers won't be responsible for law enforcement. That will be a job left to Denver police.

But security guards will inform mall goers of city laws and contact police when they see people breaking them, said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership.

"The reality is this isn't going to address everything. It's certainly not going to address those aspects or experiences that are not illegal in a public space," Door said at a news conference Wednesday.

Panhandling will still be allowed, and large groups of transients or others can still gather.

"Ideally, this (patrol) will be a deterrent both in those things that are absolutely illegal and those quality of life issues that stem from that same demographic we've experienced."

The partnership emphasized several times that the mall is inclusive to everybody, but in recent months officials have blamed "urban travelers" passing through Denver for many of the problems in the area.

The new security comes after a string of high-profile violent incidents on the mall and several reports about mall goers feeling unsafe downtown.

The partnership studied people's perception of the mall before completing "The Downtown Security Action Plan" in January. The organization plans to conduct future surveys after new security measures like the patrols, restricted use of alleys and improved lights are introduced.

When Denver residents, tourists, workers and other mall goers report feeling safe and comfortable on 16th Street, then "we'll know we have success," Door said.

In June, city officials announced plans to spend $650,000 to increase security on the mall. The Downtown Denver Partnership is coughing up even more to address real or perceived security threats downtown.

The nonprofit plans to spend about $1 million annually to bump up the security of the mall.

Allied Universal placed the winning bid to secure the mall. The American security service giant will report to Eugene Wade, the partnership's new downtown environment security manager.

Door declined several times to say how many security officers would be on the street.

"I think it's safe to say you'll never see more than 15 at any one time and you'll never see just one," she said.

The mall patrol will focus on the nine blocks spanning from Arapahoe Street (including the three blocks of Skyline Park) to Broadway.

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