Denver Parks and Recreation plans to bar suspected drug dealers and users from downtown parks and the Cherry Creek Greenway for the next six months.
The temporary directive issued by the Parks and Rec department suspends “the right of access of parties engaged in drug-related activity” to city parks and the greenway or path area along the Cherry Creek.
Under the directive, Denver police officers can issue a suspension notice to people engaged in drug dealing, selling or using that tells them they have to stay away from city parks and the Cherry Creek path area for the next 90 days.
If someone violates a suspension order, they could be charged with violation of a parks directive, which is a municipal offense punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $999, along with any other relevant criminal violations.
How do you know someone is engaged in drug-related activity?
Is it someone who looks like they’re probably dealing drugs? Someone arrested for such activity? Someone convicted? Cynthia Karvaski, a spokeswoman for Denver Parks and Rec, couldn’t immediately answer that question and referred it to Denver police.
A Denver police spokesman said officers might make that call based on complaints or based on behavior officers witness themselves while on patrol or through undercover operations. The person does not have to be arrested on a drug-related offense in order to be issued a suspension notice.
“The Cherry Creek bike trail has become a hub for drug sales and use, jeopardizing the public’s ability to safely enjoy one of Denver’s signature amenities in our outdoor recreation system,” city officials said in a press release. “The purpose of the directive is to protect public health and parkland, increase safety and improve the overall experience for trail users.”
Karvanski said the order technically applies to all city parks but the focus of enforcement is downtown parks and the creek path.
The temporary directive was announced Wednesday and will go into effect Thursday. It will run through Feb. 26, 2017.
Earlier this summer, the city and the Downtown Denver Partnership increased security patrols along the 16th Street Mall in response to viral videos and news reports of assaults, even though violent crime is not actually higher than in previous years.
Fox 31 did a report last month in which their cameras documented open drug dealing along the Cherry Creek path.
Karvanski said there have been 128 felony drug arrests in city parks and more than 3,500 needles collected.
This isn’t the first time Denver Parks and Rec has used a temporary directive to solve a conflict on its properties.
Back in 2014, a temporary directive required volleyball players at Washington Park to get a permit. That turned into a permanent policy on how much space would be available for volleyball and how much for passive recreation.
It’s not clear what will happen at the end of the 180 days of this temporary directive, but I’m guessing it won’t be Hamsterdam West.