Mayor: Illegal drugs cause problems at Union Station, not homelessness

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Mayor Hancock said the use and sale of illegal drugs and the violence associated with it must be addressed and the issues are not driven by homelessness.

DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock (D-Denver) and Regional Transportation District (RTD) CEO Debra Johnson provided details Wednesday on efforts to improve security at Union Station and the surrounding area, including more than 1,000 arrests since November.

Hancock made it clear that the use and sale of illegal drugs and the violence associated with it are key factors that need to be addressed and that the issues at the Denver landmark were not driven by homelessness.

“It continues to be an unprecedented and eye-opening experience in the life of our city,” Hancock said. “Unfortunately, this is the season in our country where we are seeing an incredible increase in synthetic opioids, fentanyl and other deadly and dangerous drugs proliferating in our cities.”

The Denver Police Department (DPD) conducts high visibility patrols and executed 15 planned operations resulting in more than 1,000 arrests between November and March 22. This included more than 700 arrests made in the Union Station concourse and terminal during the first two and a half months. month of 2022.

The focus was on long-term narcotics operations in the Union Station area, and 233 of arrests in the first quarter of 2022 were for narcotics, including several drug dealers, according to Hancock.

Additionally, 101 repeat offenders were arrested in violation of area restrictions put in place on March 1.

Seventeen handguns were also recovered between November and March.

“Let’s be clear, the sale and use of deadly illegal drugs and the violence and criminal behavior that this activity invites will not be tolerated or normalized in our city,” Hancock said.

Hancock said the city had been working with RTD since last fall to address safety concerns and that “firm compassion” was the approach taken.

“We have engaged community partners and co-responders in ongoing outreach efforts, offering support to those who are sick or in need of housing, diverting those willing to accept help,” Hancock said. .

However, Hancock pointed out that it is the sale and use of illegal drugs and not homelessness that is at the heart of Union Station’s problems.

Hancock and Johnson also discussed the process of identifying and implementing environmental changes that were recently announced, and the ongoing partnership between the city and RTD to improve public safety and public health.

RELATED: RTD Announces Changes to Union Station Bus Lobby

RTD announced last week that it would be making changes in response to “unwanted activity” at the Union Station bus concourse and surrounding area.

“Restoring a welcoming environment and ensuring the safety and security of our employees, customers, and all who visit and live or work near Denver Union Station is a top priority,” Johnson said at a conference. releases on RTD projects.

Johnson said within six months:

  • Inoperative lighting will be replaced throughout the bus hall.
  • Cleaning will be reinforced in the bus hall.
  • Pre-recorded audio announcements will be broadcast in English and Spanish. These announcements will include service, pricing and public safety information “and hopefully discourage unwanted activity,” Johnson said.
  • Electrical outlets in aisles will be disabled or covered.
  • The restrooms, closed since December 3, are expected to reopen in the second quarter of 2022 after extensive cleaning and repairs.

In six to twelve months, Johnson said:

  • Television screens displaying security camera feeds will be installed at the main entrances.
  • Commuter train platform stairs will be converted to exit stairs only.
  • Barriers will be installed to prevent access to the areas between the elevators and the glass walls of the Wewatta and Chestnut pavilions.
  • Floor decals and signage will be installed to encourage movement and discourage vagrancy.
  • Smoke detectors will be installed in the toilets.

In the long term, Johnson said paid fare zones will be established, meaning only people with an appropriate fare will have access to the bus concourse.

RELATED: With ‘Unwanted Activity’ Plaguing Union Station, Who’s Responsible for Addressing It?

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