Denver Police are working with Denver Downtown Partnership and the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District to expand its gunshot detection system in hopes of curbing crime and improving safety perception in one of the busiest neighborhoods in the city.
Police Chief Paul Pazen said Wednesday there wasn’t a specific incident prompting the beefed-up measures, and that it was in the works over several months.
The area was the site of a shootout that left one person dead and four others injured in November. Along with nearby LoDo, the area is known for its nightlife and, more recently, a growing reputation for being a hotbed of crime.
The department reported last week violent crime rose overall in the city, including a murder rate that hit a 14-year high.
Pazen and Denver Downtown Partnership President and CEO Tami Door said they are modeling their new efforts after similar security measures put in place at the 16th Street Mall in 2016. The efforts include increasing the number of cops walking the beat.
The gunshot detection system is already in place in five other neighborhoods. Pazen said the new addition will expand the department’s coverage by about 12 percent. Their plan is to have it completely up and running over the next couple of months.
“This is something we think is vitally important for the safety and security of our community,” Pazen said.
Councilman Albus Brooks said the Ballpark district is bounded by 20th Street, Blake Street, North Broadway and Arapahoe Street.
The department and the private partners will split the costs for the system’s expansion.
Kate Barton of DDP said in an email that while the department is still finalizing costs, they’re anticipated providing $40,000 annually. Pazen said costs will be split 50/50.
Door said the investments for the project are coming from DDP partners that include local businesses and property owners.
Pazen said this marks the first time the department has worked with private partners to expand this technology. Without the infusion of private money, he said the coverage area would not have been as large.
“People using guns in our city is unacceptable,” Pazen said. “This is new technology and a new tool that will help us address gun violence and reduce gun violence as we move forward.”
Both said they have been working together in the past few months to examine some of the ongoing safety and safety perception concerns. Door said DDP has “strong” partnerships with the City and County of Denver and its department.
The 2016 measures were crafted to make them applicable to other areas in the city, not just downtown. They will also be focusing on the environment in the area, like lighting, for example, that can help with safety perception.
“We are city builders and we know that building a great city is the responsibility that falls on everyone that lives here, works here, plays here or leads this community overall,” Door said.
Brooks also cited concerns likes gun violence as some of the reasons for the efforts announced Wednesday. He called the private-public partnership “critical” in helping respond to the concerns.
“We are taking this serious,” Brooks said. “It’s important for us to address this in every sector of the community.”
Three more cops will be added to the walking beat in the neighborhood.
It’s part of an expansion of the department’s community policing efforts. Pazen is hoping officers will end up on a first-name basis with residents and business owners.
Expanding foot patrols on the 16th Street Mall was also part of the 2016 security plan. The department will rely on neighborhood block captains to help keep track of their new walking beat area. And it won’t just be cops: Pazen said there will be additional mental health clinicians who can respond to situations when needed.
Separately, DDP will use a communication network to keep several surrounding property owners in contact with one another and police.
“We have seen dramatic decreases in crime as a result of those efforts as well as the additional enhancements that took place,” Pazen said. “Now, we are adding officers to the ballpark neighborhood to do the exact same thing.”
Their hope is that the new measures will yield similar results for the Ballpark district.
District 6 Commander Aaron Sanchez said since the department started having officers walk the beat on the Mall in 2016, crime has decreased 14 percent and there were 1,000 fewer reported crimes. Sanchez’s district includes the downtown area. Pazen said cops started walking the beat in the Ballpark district on Sunday.
“Just as important as that is the perception of crime and the fear of crime,” Sanchez said. “It just feels safer to be down here. … Our goal is to make the 16th Street Mall and the Ballpark area feel just as safe.”
Correction: A typo in a quote from Chief Pazen about a decrease in crime has been changed to reflect what Pazen said.