After the number of violent crimes increased substantially in Denver last year, Mayor Michael Hancock has unveiled a multipronged initiative that he says should improve the city's public safety through collaboration between local, state and federal agencies.
Hancock and the city's public safety leaders unveiled their comprehensive plan during a news conference Thursday morning.
Officials said there is no specific reason for the increase in crime in Denver and across the country, but "there is a broad agreement among experts" that the COVID-19 pandemic, increased number of illegal guns, social unrest and the opioid crisis have contributed to the problem, according to an outline of the plan.
"Everyone in Denver deserves to live in safety, and anyone who threatens that sense of security is harming not just the people they most directly affect — but our entire city," Hancock said in a news release. "Addressing these challenges requires a coordinated approach that includes local, state, and federal action, as well as thoughtful collaboration among law enforcement, addiction and treatment providers, and the community at large."
Some of the actions the city plans to take include expanding its "Hot Spot" place-based policing, removing illegal guns from the streets, creating a Denver Sheriff's Department criminal charges filing team and developing and reviewing its criminal bond schedule.
These initiatives will rely on at least one other agency besides the Denver Police Department to ensure success. For example, it'll take coordination between the courts, public defenders, district attorneys and the sheriff's office to review its criminal bond schedule, according to the plan.
Likewise, the creation and implementation of the criminal charges filing team will keep more Denver officers on the streets. Officers now are required to investigate and file charges, but will soon be allowed to return to patrol.
Hancock's plan also includes extensive resources for behavioral health and alternatives to police response that include establishing an Assessment Intake Diversion Center that will connect people in need of mental health and drug addiction services with resources at any time.
Other initiatives include rolling out the sheriff's office's crisis response team, which will specialize in preventing and assisting those experiencing a mental health crisis.
The city plans to add 144 cadets and another 40 lateral officers this year. The police department also plans to add a civilian academic director who will bolster their training and education opportunities, according to the plan.
Through these initiatives, Hancock and the city's public safety leaders believe they will build on their efforts over the past decade that have established a reputation of reform, better training for law enforcement, improved community engagement and innovation.