By Lauren DiSpirito
DENVER (CBS4) – Already this week in northeast Denver, a man was killed in a shooting and a child was struck by a bullet that penetrated his home in another shooting.
Community leaders tell CBS4 that since early March, shootings have been on the rise in neighborhoods like Whittier and Curtis Park, where gang violence has long plagued communities and tends to spike when the weather gets warm.
Monday afternoon, a man was shot and killed near a street corner at 28th and Arapahoe Street in Curtis Park. A few hours later, and about a mile away near 30th and Humboldt in the Whittier neighborhood, Denver City Council President Albus Brooks says a child suffered a graze wound when a bullet came through his home.
For people who have lived in the area for years, Brooks says the problem is frightening, but not surprising.
“We don’t want to get used to gang violence, at the same time this is something that’s been plaguing this community,” he said.
He says as neighborhoods change, new attention is called, highlighting problems not faced by other Denver communities.
“Although we’re experiencing incredible success in Denver, Denver’s a cool city, there are people who are not experiencing success,” Brooks said. “There are people who have been oppressed, there are people who live in systemic oppressive situations, and this is the result that we see.”
Last week, Whittier Neighborhood Association’s Mark Ungar says 60 to 70 people attended a community meeting with members of the Denver Police Department, other community groups and Brooks. Both Brooks and Ungar say people are scared and tension is high following the rash of shootings, some in daylight, and where multiple rounds are fired.
“It’s the fact that these bullets do not discriminate,” said Ungar. “The people shooting these rounds are not excellent marksmen, not trained marksmen, they miss targets and they don’t discriminate between their target, and, like we saw last night, a young child that’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In 2015, Brooks said northeast Denver experienced a similar uptick in gang related shootings. He calls the tension at community meetings like last week’s “palpable,” as neighbors both new to the area and those who have lived with violence for their neighborhood for years try to find solutions.
“There are always those residents who have been here that are like, ‘This is what it’s been like, this is what we’ve been telling you, but now that there’s gentrification, there’s hysteria,’ so there is that tension that we feel in those meetings.”
In response to the shootings, Brooks and Ungar say Denver police have increased patrols and are dedicating more resources to District 2, which patrols northeast Denver. They also say the solutions lie in coming together as a community.
“This is a community issue, it affects everybody in the community and in order to get a solution in place it’s going to take everybody in the community,” Ungar said. “If you see something say something, if you’ve got the time or resources, donate to one of the many gang outreach programs in the area, find out how you can help.”
Brooks added “we need to put money into preventing these crimes in our communities, investing in young people, afterschool programs — transformation works, we need to do it with greater fervor and strategic planning.”