Some Stapleton residents have been vocalizing heightened concerns about safety in the neighborhood in light of a recent incident. At the November 17 SUN Block Captain/Outreach/Safety Forum, more than 100 residents filled the seats and lined the walls shoulder to shoulder.
At about 2:30am on Thursday, Oct. 29, four shots were fired at 29th and Lima. The bullets traveled through a window of a Stapleton home and hit the wall about 6 inches above an infant’s crib. No one was injured. The homeowners awoke but didn’t realize the bullets actually penetrated the house so they attempted to go back to sleep and no 9-1-1 calls were made. In the morning, upon finding the bullet hole, they called the police. Officers collected as much information as possible and a detective has been assigned to the case, but unfortunately, there are no witnesses or leads at this time, according to Denver Police Department (DPD) District 5.
Many residents have been worried that the neighborhood is becoming crime ridden so the meeting was called for reassurance from police officers about their efforts to prevent crime, as well as reminders to residents how to prevent crime. District 5 Commander Ron Thomas empathized with residents and understood the October 29 incident was alarming. Comparatively, Stapleton is a very safe neighborhood, though. Last month, there were 19 reports of gunfire in Stapleton, whereas 33rd and Holly had 1,000 reports. Crime in Stapleton makes up 3 percent of all crime in the city of Denver, and Lt. Bob Wyckoff added that precinct 511 (Stapleton) is a very safe community.
Cmdr. Thomas reminded the crowd about basic crime safety tips: close and lock doors, keep valuables out of sight both in the house and car, and always contact the police first with concerns, suspicious behavior, audible gun shots or crimes in action. These crime prevention tips, as well as continued communication with the police, are the recipe for a strong relationship between residents and the police department, according to Cmdr. Thomas. He reiterated contact phone numbers for non-emergency concerns: 720.913.3000; his direct contact: 720.913.1400; and Text-a-Tip: 720.723.8911. Text-a-Tip allows Stapleton residents to text information about suspicious people, incidents or vehicles, as well as photos, directly to the dispatch center. DPD has found people are not always inclined to call 9-1-1 when they observe suspicious activity, but Text-a-Tip makes it more convenient.
“By a show of hands, who has ever heard gunfire or seen suspicious activity, but not called the police?” Eastbridge resident Chuck Montera asked the room, which was followed by hands raised by a majority of the people. Cmdr. Thomas emphasized the importance of calling 9-1-1 because the department is unable to respond to a situation if they’re unaware of it. Also, 9-1-1 calls provide important data used to determine resource allocation. For example, if there are gunshots but no calls to the police, there is no record of it happening and no apparent need for additional resources. Even if a suspect is not in view, still call. While police officers occasionally check social media sites including NextDoor and the Stapleton Community Watch Facebook page, those posts cannot be used as data and are often seen a while after the fact. Social media posts should always be accompanied by a call or text to the police department, according to Cmdr. Thomas.
The Q & A session began with a resident’s concern about seeming racist for posting photos of suspicious activity carried out by people of color. Cmdr. Thomas suggested not posting these photos to social media, but sending them directly to the police.
A question was raised about security at elementary schools, particularly Isabella Bird Elementary. DPS later clarified they fund security at middle schools but not elementary schools. Bill Roberts K-8 School has security provided by DPS not because of its proximity to a region of Aurora with a high crime rate, but because it has a middle school.
Wal-Mart remains a major problem, making up a majority of the crime in northeast Denver. Wal-Mart and its parking lot have a high rate of crime against property, violent crime and family crime. While 74 to 77 percent of all of Stapleton’s crime takes place in retail establishments, Wal-Mart makes up 20 percent alone. Some off-duty officers take reports at Wal-Mart in order to free department resources for the rest of District 5, which is the largest police district spanning Stapleton, Montbello and Green Valley Ranch.
“Any consideration to changing district boundaries to make the area smaller?” asked one attendee, to which Cmdr. Thomas responded it has been considered many times but decided against because Stapleton would then be split in half, and they want to focus on it as a whole. He has made staffing changes to have officers work fewer hours in one shift, but have more officers on patrol at any one time. There are typically 9 to 16 officers on one shift. City Councilman Chris Herndon noted that city council has control of the budget resources allocated to Denver Police, and people can reach out to him with police staffing questions.
Attendees suggested that Stapleton should hire private security to add extra patrol. One resident said, “I do not support one dollar of my community dues going to a wine night before I feel like my children are safe,” which was followed by applause. Keven Burnett, executive director of the Stapleton Master Community Association, which collects HOA fees for parks and recreation management, ongoing recreational and cultural programming (including wine nights), responded that residents of Stapleton were intended to and have always relied on city resources for emergency response, including fire and police. The MCA hires private security to patrol the pools and alleyways, but not the entire Stapleton area. Cmdr. Thomas said that, in his experience, private patrols are inexperienced and cannot even make an arrest so they have little effectiveness at responding to crime. Prior to the forum, several residents have expressed on social media sites that rather than spending money on private patrols, residents need to take personal responsibility for preventable crime.
For more information about safety, police operations or police resources, contact District 5 Community Resource Officer Sherikera Heflin at Sherikera.Heflin@denvergov.org or Councilman Chris Herndon’s office at 720.337.8888.