As teen homicide numbers climb, Denver’s mayor says he’s assembling a team to intervene

The administration will apparently focus on guns and social media with a sense of urgency, but the details are still vague.

A display case of pistols at Hammer Down Firearms in Wheat Ridge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A display case of pistols at Hammer Down Firearms in Wheat Ridge. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

It’s unclear exactly what product will emerge from a gathering of city leaders convened by Mayor Michael Hancock to address teen violence, but the task force will aim to make a “measurable and immediate impact,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said Wednesday.

Following the seventh homicide of someone 19 or younger in Denver this year, Hancock says be assembled a team of city leaders, including Police Chief Paul Pazen, District Attorney Beth McCann and Executive Director of Safety Troy Riggs, to strategize of a plan to defend kids from violence.

“The key for the mayor is coordination, and everyone is working jointly so there can be an immediate impact to stop what’s going on,” Hancock’s communications director Theresa Marchetta told Denverite.

It’s not that the administration has not been focused on preventing violence, Marchetta said, it’s that coordination between agencies needs to be tighter. She described the goal of the task force as “quick and effective” as opposed to “long-game change of policy.”

Hancock’s announcement comes during a deadly time for children. Eight young people were killed last year in shootings, according to police data. And more people aged 19 and younger have been killed with bullets since 2018 than in the previous three years combined. People of color are disproportionately affected by gun violence, a recent Denver Public Health report found.

Marchetta said police partly blame the violence on the escalation of gang disputes and other disagreements on social media, out of public view. But access to guns seem to be the most serious threat.

“Recent shootings, including the one in my own neighborhood this past weekend, underscore the urgency in preventing youth gun violence,” Hancock said in a prepared statement. “In Denver, we have taken more than 1,000 guns off our streets this year, but easy access to firearms continues to be fatal for youth in our communities. As we call for action at all levels of government and throughout our community, we strongly encourage families to act by being aware of what their children are putting on social media, talking about gun safety, and safely securing and storing all firearms.”

Marchetta said the task force could come out with solid actions as early as next week.

In the meantime, Hancock said he will attend the “Stop Youth Violence” rally with free music and food Saturday at Green Valley Ranch Rec Center held by Gang Rescue and Support Project, Struggle of Love, Families Against Violent Acts, and Kids Above Everything. It goes from 3 to 6 p.m.

This article was updated to correct the name of the Gang Rescue and Support Project.

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