The Denver Post sent a questionnaire to candidates in the April 4 Denver municipal election. Answers are lightly edited and ordered alphabetically by candidate’s last name. Following are mayoral candidates’ answers to the question:
What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?
Death at traffic stop: don’t do it!
I will take a comprehensive approach to community safety. My safety priorities include:
• Strengthening the Denver Police Department, so we can attract and retain more officers to the force, particularly women and people of color.
• Working with our public safety officials – leaders, officers, and staff – to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability.
• Increasing investment in civilian response units to ensure we provide appropriate resources (e.g. – mental health support) and free up officers to focus on true crime.
• Address crime prevention by investing in housing, health care, education, and economic development.
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Our number one public safety concern is gun violence. Gun violence, like the multiple crises we face in Denver, shares a similar root: economic and racial inequality. Having faced poverty, hunger, inadequate health care options for a child with a chronic condition, and even threats of foreclosure from a predatory lender, I know the fear and anxiety felt when facing security crises. We must address inequalities at the root rather than pursuing Band-Aid solutions. I would protect our city by strengthening our safety social nets for tenants, workers, and marginalized communities. Furthermore, I will increase the city’s transparency and accountability.
The greatest public safety concern is selling of fentanyl that is leading to proliferation of crime that often associates itself with drug trafficking. Fentanyl trafficking has increased the number of overdoses in Denver and it is important to target the sources of this issue to significantly impact this trend.
For me, public safety and public health are closely linked. Both the city’s Parks Department and Public Health Department contributed to the decision to close Civic Center Park in 2021 because of extreme public health risks that the encampments posed to their residents and to the broader public. I supported that decision. Folks living in encampments are in inherently dangerous situations and I want to help the unhoused quickly and efficiently access services they need.
Every person in Denver deserves to feel safe. My record working with law enforcement and the community on innovative solutions to reduce crime is unmatched. I founded the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program which has improved policing and mental health support. I created the first bipartisan law enforcement integrity bill with law enforcement support. This same innovation is found in my Community Safety plan that outlines solutions for enforcement, curbing youth violence, getting guns off our streets, reducing hate crimes, alternatives to jail, and addressing theft and vandalism. Together, we can make Denver the safest city in the nation.
Denver’s greatest public safety concern is the city-wide increase in crime and the feeling that downtown is inhospitable. Solving this issue requires four concrete steps: 1) focusing on prevention through early intervention with diversionary courts like mental health, drug, and gun courts; 2) putting 200 additional first responders on the streets, including mental health workers to support those in crisis and beat cops walking the streets; 3) converting two pods of the jail into mental health and addiction units that can provide services people badly need; 4) after providing permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless, enforcing the law on those who are committing crimes or harassing residents downtown.
More police on force. Better recuritment and better training.
Deborah “Debbie” Ortega
I intend to strengthen Denver’s public safety by standing up a Metro Task Force to crack down on auto theft, bicycle theft, and keeping deadly drugs out of our city. To do that, we need better recruitment, training and retention of our public safety personnel.
Our law enforcement officers must also reflect the diversity of our city. One way we can achieve this is by encouraging Denver’s young people into the Public Safety Cadet Program. Additionally, I will expand our gun buy-back program to get dangerous weapons off our streets.
Youth violence and domestic violence makes up the bulk of our homicides. Last year there were 88, 2021 there were 96, and 95 in 2022. We need more youth centers and arts related services to engage that population. We need more mental health and family services to be prioritized here in Denver.
Our safety ranks are short by about 50% based on the size of our city; these numbers don’t work. We will enhance equity and strengthen trust between law enforcement and the community by expanding our ranks through recruiting in diverse neighborhoods. We will support our officers, improve job satisfaction and retention, implement rigorous non-lethal and de-escalation training to protect life, and expand innovative programs like STAR.
I will coordinate with the Legislature and our neighbors to improve outcomes.
My manager of safety will be an experienced leader, charged with advocacy for department needs and accountability through greater transparency.
The failure of the mayor and the City Council have led to a near tripling of murders over the past 10 years. We are one of the car theft capitals of the country. Denver deserves a mayor who will crack down on crime by adding 400 police officers, by increasing funding for police training, and by lowering 911 response times.
Rising crime is a top concern and priority. First, we need to restore the image of our police department. At its core, when you call the police from any neighborhood, they need to promptly respond. We need a mayor who supports our police officers but also one who holds them accountable.
Second, our police officers need to participate and engage in the neighborhood planning process and have officers assigned to specific neighborhoods and communities.
Lastly, we’re going to hire more officers and invest in a local pipeline. We should strive to retain and hire the very best police officers to work in our great city but it starts with welcoming and thanking the good actors for keeping us safe and giving them a seat at the table to tackle our crime issues.
We have a mental health crisis, and a lot of other issues, like addiction, come from that. It’s always been hard to get affordable care. But everyone is isolated, traumatized and exhausted after years of pandemic. People are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table after working long hours in unsafe conditions. The city needs to create policies to reduce that stress of survival and invest in care. As a mentor to indigenous youth, I know what a huge difference investing in support and conflict resolution for our young people can make. Adults need hope too. We need to expand mental health resources, job training, community anti-violence programming, addiction services, harm reduction, and restorative justice that brings people together to heal.
Getting a handle on the homeless situation. Getting the police more involved in the community they serve. Getting police to live in the districts they serve and allowing them to stay in that district. The police need to have that ownership stake in the districts they work in. We need to reduce gang violence in our city. Nothing hit me harder than speaking on the steps of the capitol during George Floyd and seeing my city in a state of chaos and violence. I cried in front of hundreds possibly thousands. We are better than this . We are. George Floyd can happen again. It can easily happen again tomorrow.
Denver’s greatest public safety concern is the prevalence and use of guns, particularly weapons of war on our streets. I would enact policies to make Denver the safest city in the nation when it comes to gun violence. This means a massive gun buyback program, banning of assault weapons, universal background checks, and beefed up red flag laws. As mayor, I would feel a moral obligation to address the epidemic of mass shootings and gun violence.
Encampments, encampments, encampments. They must be acknowledged as a humanitarian crisis and sheltered. Anything less is inhumane and inexcusable.
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