Apr 1, 2024 - News

Shootings at Denver homeless shelter prompt new security protocols

Illustration of a security camera topped with police car lights

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Despite deploying more security guards to a former hotel housing Denverites experiencing homelessness, a third person was shot just 11 days after a double homicide at the same shelter.

Why it matters: Mayor Mike Johnston's multimillion-dollar plan to provide transitional housing is presenting safety risks for those it's meant to help most.

  • The latest security issues have also sparked tension between some city leaders and the Salvation Army, which operates the shelter and others like it.

The latest: Denver is now considering taking back $800,000 from its contract with the Salvation Army, which was intended for security measures, 9News reports.

  • The move comes after the city took the lead from the Salvation Army, adding metal detectors, security cameras, and hiring private firm Securitas to station unarmed guards onsite 24/7.
  • Denver police are also using "covert assets" to uncover weapons within the hotel, Chief Ron Thomas said Thursday.

What they're saying: Some people say they would feel safer sleeping on the streets than at the hotel shelter, Denver7 reports.

  • "There have been a lot of deaths here since I've been here," shelter resident Jeremy Page told the news station.

By the numbers: Since January, seven people have died — including the two fatally shot in March — at the former DoubleTree off Interstate 70 and Quebec Street, per the Denver Gazette. The cause of death for the other five remains unknown.

  • Meanwhile, nearly 500 calls from the hotel have been made to the police in a roughly four-month span, with most calls related to trespassing and court order violations, Denverite reports.
  • City officials say that's still a major improvement from the volume of calls they responded to last year at homeless encampments on the streets.

State of play: Two arrests were made in connection with the most recent shooting. The suspects, who lived at the shelter, knew the victim and may have targeted her because of a prior conflict, Denver police said in a statement.

  • Authorities are still searching for a suspect in the double homicide.

What's next: The city is advancing an $8 million contract with the Salvation Army to operate a shelter for families experiencing homelessness.

  • The plan is to hire two more Securitas security guards to operate that site 24 hours a day, Cole Chandler, the mayor's senior adviser for homelessness resolution, recently told council members. That would bring the total to 20 guards across both sites.

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