Oct 28, 2022 - News

Denver explores opening an office of neighborhood safety

Illustration of a police badge, with yellow and black stripes overlaid on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Denver is considering creating an Office of Neighborhood Safety as part of a broader effort to move beyond policing to prevent violence.

The intrigue: Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann is leading the city's efforts to shift focus from traditional criminal punishment and work as a supplement to police, and he has support from Mayor Michael Hancock's administration.

  • Partnering city agencies could include children's affairs, economic development and human services.

Yes, but: The city is still figuring out how the office would work and who it would help, and if it would be a stand-alone program or fall under an existing city agency.

Details: The University of Colorado Denver is seeking public feedback on the proposal as part of a city-funded study to determine the office's feasibility. "The community voice is a huge piece of this," CU Denver associate professor Sheila Huss tells Axios Denver.

  • Kashmann said the city is paying the university $75,000 for two studies to explore an office of neighborhood safety and an office of community engagement.

How it works: Daniela Gilbert of the Vera Institute of Justice told the city council the office's responsibilities could include providing support after crimes are committed and reaching out to people at high-risk of committing crimes.

  • Gilbert said these agencies, also called offices of violence prevention, are relatively new, emerging within the last 15 years in cities like Baltimore, Charlotte, and Washington.
  • Baltimore established the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement in 2020 with a goal to have more city agencies play a role in public safety and violence prevention. That office has a $24.8 million annual budget and 16 staff members, according to a 2022 national report on neighborhood safety offices.
  • The office provides direct services to people and coordinates violence prevention activities, including overseeing Safe Streets, its violence prevention program.

What they're saying: "No matter how you feel about traditional badge and gun policing, we need to supplement that with a strong focus on public health … to reduce crime," Kashmann tells Axios Denver.

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