By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and public safety leaders from various city agencies announced Monday they will take a new, community-based approach to violent crimes that builds on previous promises to reform policing. Changes include a new division to improve transparency and getting more officers on foot with partners from outside the department.

“It’s excruciatingly obvious that police cannot just be about reacting to incidents,” Hancock said at a news conference.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen explained that a large percentage of crime in the city is coming from a small area of land made up of five locations he considers hot spots. The combined landmass is less than 2% of Denver if you exclude the airport, but it accounted for 26.1% of homicides and aggravated assaults and 49% of all aggravated assaults and shooting victims in 2020, according to a news release.

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These areas include South Federal Blvd. and West Alameda Ave., Colfax Ave. and Broadway, East Colfax Ave. and North Yosemite Street, East 47th Ave. and North Peoria Street, and MLK Jr. Blvd and North Holly Street.

“What I hear from community members is I want better policing,” Pazen said at the mayor’s event.

Public safety is the second issue the mayor has addressed this spring in his three-part plan to transition Denver from pandemic rescue to recovery, he already announced his economic response and will tackle housing in the weeks ahead. Leaders say they are taking a data-driven model to address those five areas with higher cases of violence.

READ MORE: Denver Community Task Force Shares 112 Recommendations On Police Reform

The locations fall in neighborhoods that tend to be more diverse, but lack the same access to opportunity as other communities in Denver. A focused approach based on evidence isn’t new for the police department, but when pressed on what will be different, city officials said they will increase their collaboration among agencies and with the community.

“The vast majority of officers who come to work every single day, reflect the service that our city values. They go above and beyond the call of duty. They put themselves in harm’s way, for you and I to live safely in our community,” said Denver Public Safety Director Murphy Robinson at the news conference. “We do have work to do, and the killing and treating of people differently because of the color of their skin and their economic status will no longer be tolerated.”

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Robinson said Denver will have a new Transportation & Policy Division that will require all public safety agencies to establish and use best practices to continuously improve operations and culture, according to a news release. The division will also take recommendations from the community on an ongoing basis and provide monthly updates to the Citizen’s Oversight Board.

City leaders added the police and fire departments are already responding together when possible. The chief said his officers will start working with faith-based groups in the community immediately.

“Reform isn’t something that just happens once,” Hancock said. “It must be continuous, and it must be sustained, it must result in changing the systems.”

Shawn Chitnis