By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – With crime rising in downtown Denver’s Central Business District, Derek Friedman has taken a significant step to make up for what he says is a tripling of shoplifting and burglary thefts at his SportsFan stores. He is instituting a new 1% fee on purchases at his downtown Denver stores which he calls the Denver Crime Spike Fee.

“When there are no fears of consequences, then those people who engage in shoplifting activities will brazenly walk in, grab something and walk right out. It really is a lack of fear of consequences,” said Friedman.

He says since 2019, shoplifting has soared at his three stores along the 16th Street Mall, necessitating the transaction fee which will took effect Monday. The stores sell sports jerseys, hats, socks and other sports paraphernalia.

Friedman shared a half dozen store videos from 2020 and 2021 showing shoplifters stealing merchandise, undeterred by store clerks who try to stop them or point out they are being videotaped. In one case, a thief brandishes a machete to hold store employees at bay.

“It’s the brazenness of it that is really, really different,” said Friedman. “Once these folks are arrested, and they’re put in front of a judge and the judge just released them, they’re going to return right back to where they were and take more stuff.”

Denver crime rates confirm Friedman’s concerns; The Central Business District, which includes the 16th Street Mall, has consistently had one of the highest crime rates of Denver neighborhoods over the past year according to Denver’s online crime tracking portal.

Friedman says those crime numbers have other impacts on his business- he says employees- especially women- ask not to work at the 16th Street Mall stores but are agreeable to working at his stores in other front range locations.

(credit: Sportsfan)

He says the soaring losses have cost his workers raises and bonuses.

“My hope is that people understand property crime is real and has a real impact on everyday people,” said Friedman. He told CBS4 there are so few workers interested in working downtown, he often has to close his stores during normal business hours.

Friedman opened two stores in Texas last year and says for the foreseeable future, that state will be his focus.

“We have halted all plans to expand in Colorado until the crime situation is resolved. We are focusing our growth plans on Texas right now.”

Friedman went on to say, “I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is accept this as the new normal.”

Friedman’s shoplifting fee was first reported by Ed Sealover with the Denver Business Journal.

Brian Maass