Aug 25, 2022 - News

Union Station safety plan pushes more police

People wait in the underground concourse at Union Station on Aug. 24 in Denver. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez/Axios

RTD will add to its police department ranks as it works with the city of Denver to address ongoing safety concerns plaguing its iconic downtown transit hub.

The big picture: Union Station has been dubbed "Denver's living room," and is regularly filled with travelers and tourists.

Yes, but: It's become a hostile public space for people experiencing homelessness, who rest and socialize in the Great Hall and underground concourse.

  • "It wasn't intended to be that," CEO and GM Debra Johnson told Axios Denver on Wednesday of the station's concourses becoming hangouts. "It was intended for people to access mobility options."

Driving the news: Newly appointed RTD police chief Joel Fitzgerald said in an interview with Axios Denver that he plans to hire more officers, calling that one of his first "marching orders" on the job.

  • RTD currently has 21 sworn police officers, and Johnson said that adding more could eliminate any need for additional security guards. He did not specify how many officers will be hired.

Details: Johnson and Fitzgerald were among the RTD officials who presented their safety plan before a city council committee Wednesday.

  • The steps to address safety concerns include improving lighting conditions and creating areas where people must show proof of fare.

Context: A spike in crime has spurred heightened security, with guards patrolling the terminals and Great Hall, which is home to bars, restaurants and a hotel.

  • The additional patrols at Union Station — a move that drew criticism from public safety reform activists when announced earlier this year — will continue to include police and security.

By the numbers: Authorities have made 1,186 arrests so far in 2022 at Union Station, including 229 from repeat offenders, according to city data.

  • At least 279 arrests made this year were connected to possession of drug paraphernalia, while 136 were for drug offenses, which can include distribution.
  • The department said it made 17 illegal firearm seizures between January and July, up from the five during the same period in 2021.

Yes, but: An analysis from Denverite showed that 6% of charges from the start of 2022 through April within a half-block radius of Union Station were for violent crimes.

  • Data provided to Axios by Denver police showed the top arrests at Union Station so far this year were related to warrant violations, with 393 arrests.
  • Crimes like assault, aggravated robbery and sexual assault constituted a small percentage of arrests there, with 31 combined.
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