By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – Safety on Colfax has been a problem for decades. Just ask the long-time residents.
“The 33 years that I’ve lived there, it’s been pretty much the same,” said Eddie Ruiz. “I kinda get scared for my family. People are always hanging out there that don’t belong there.”
The Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) has been working closely with Denver Police District 6 (DPD6) to thwart crime on Colfax. The murder of Justin Slyter on July 9 was the last straw for many.
BID organized a Colfax safety meeting on Tuesday, hoping to get ideas from every level on ways to improve safety. Right off the bat, District Commander Ronald Saunier acknowledged that more needs to be done. He said, “It’s time to take back Colfax.”
Those in attendance included representatives from Mayor Hancock’s office, City Councilors, the Denver Police Department as well as businesses and residents of District 6, which runs along Colfax Avenue from the Capitol to about Colorado Boulevard.
“What I liked about it is that we got all the parties there working in the same direction and that’s how you’re gonna make improvements where everybody is working together and I think we can make improvements. We will make improvements,” said Wayne New of City Council District 10.
Many community members shared their experiences. While foot and bike patrols have been added to the area and many agreed, it hasn’t made a significant difference.
Commander Saunier said arrests along Colfax for drug-related offenses have increased but noted there has been four homicides in just over a year in the area. This he called unacceptable.
The room went silent when one resident let her young son speak. He could barely get the words our before he began to cry.
“The main problem for me, is the Network Coffee House … a whole bunch of people go there and it really scares me. I wanna feel like I’m in a safer neighborhood, but I don’t feel like I can.”
The coffee house serves the community and gives to the poor, but in doing so, according to residents at the meeting, they have attracted a less than favorable crowd.
But the coffee house is one small example of a growing problem. Even Eddie Ruiz became emotional talking about it.
“I noticed the little boy in there, ya know, how he felt and I know how my grandkids have felt,” said Ruiz
“It’s a hard place to live in but we made our house our home. Like I said, we’ve been there 33 years and we wanna be there as long as we can.”
Despite the ongoing issues, many at Tuesday’s meeting were encouraged by the showing of city officials and hopeful that progress could be made.
“I think progress can be made. We’ve talked about drug area restrictions for about a year so now we need to get back to that to be able to move drug dealers and sellers off of those areas. The homeless… the city is supplying resources for that but we’ve gotta do a better job increasing some area services within areas like Colfax,” said New.
A second meeting will take place in two weeks. A date has not yet been set, but DPD Chief Robert White encouraged everyone to ask him at that time, “what has been done?”
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015. She is currently a reporter for CBS4 This Morning, which means she is always on the go, covering a wide variety of breaking local news and important local events. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.