By Kelly Werthmann
DENVER (CBS4) – Crime on Colfax is unfortunately nothing new, but a recent murder outside a 7-Eleven in downtown Denver is raising safety concerns.
During a safety meeting with the Colfax Avenue Business Improvement District last Tuesday, Denver Police District 6 Commander Ron Saunier said, “It’s time to take back Colfax.”
Among those ready to do so is a group of volunteers with a mission to end violence.
“We volunteer our time to make this a little better of a place for all of us to live,” Robi Sano, Commander of the Colorado Guardian Angels, said.
The Guardian Angels is a volunteer citizens group that patrols Colfax Avenue and parts of downtown Denver, typically on Saturday nights. They will intervene to protect people and stop crimes in progress, then alert police to take control.
“We primarily worry about violent crime and street dealing, things like that,” Sano told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia. “We don’t sweat small stuff like jaywalking or somebody doing something silly. We’re out to keep people safe.”
Salo has volunteered as a Guardian Angel for nearly 25 years. He said street violence and drug dealings seem to be on the rise.
“I’d say the trend is getting worse for sure,” he said. “There are more and more numbers of young people and gangs hanging out and loitering late at night.”
Salo attributes the trend to the city’s growth, but says decrease in crime requires an increase in responsibility. People don’t volunteer in their community like they used to, he said.
“There’s so much apathy out there, ‘Not my problem, not my business,'” Salo said. “But I think it is your business. I think we all have an obligation to get involved to make it a better place to live.”
About 30 people are on the Guardian Angels roster right now, according to Salo, with about six or seven people out on the night patrol. The majority of volunteers are over the age of 50 — the oldest is 70 — and Salo is hoping to attract younger volunteers to keep the group going for generations to come.
“This summer we’re doing a recruiting campaign for people 16 and over,” Salo said. “We can find a place for just about anybody, barring you don’t have a violent felony record.”
The Guardian Angels recently opened a new office on Colfax where they train and outfit volunteers. They teach life-saving skills, laws pertaining to citizen’s arrests as well as mixed-martial arts. The goal is to start teams of safety who want to put an end to violence.
“We’re here to help,” Salo said. “We’re the good guys.”
For more information on the Guardian Angels and how to get involved, visit co-ga.org.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 This Morning over the weekend and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.