Denver police are teaming up with the feds to issue a warning to felons in the city: Get caught with a gun, and risk facing time in federal prison.
The department joined Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Denver Special Agent in Charge David Booth and Acting U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Kirsch on Wednesday to announce a new two-person team made up of one Denver police officer and one ATF officer.
The duo will be responsible for investigating shootings in the city, with a focus on prior offenders who use guns. Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said they’re most likely contributors to violence in the city. The team will investigate shootings throughout Denver and review each case to figure out whether anyone involved can be brought forward on federal charges for possession of a weapon by a previous offender. The unit will also focus on crimes committed in the five “crime hot spots” identified by the department.
The unit’s investigations could result in federal charges, rather than just local ones, which could mean stiffer penalties for people found guilty. Pazen said the two-person unit started working about three weeks ago.
“We also want to put violent felons on notice,” Pazen said on Wednesday. “If you choose to (illegally) possess, or use a firearm in Denver, we will do everything within our authority to ensure you face the greatest penalties.”
The program is relatively unique. While Denver police and other police departments across the country regularly partner with federal agencies, Kirsch said he wasn’t aware of other cities with a similar unit like the one announced on Wednesday.
The city has witnessed a spike in violent crimes this year. Business burglaries, carjackings and homicides are up since 2019. Pazen said the department has recovered 1,170 guns so far this year, a 26 percent jump from the three-year average between 2018 and 2020. Denver police have made 415 arrests so far this year for prohibited firearm possessions, which are the kind of charges the new unit will investigate. Pazen said this represents a 48 percent increase from the three-year average between 2018 and 2020.
Before the press conference announcing the new program, Denver police responded to a shooting outside a federal building on Wednesday.