Glenwood City Council approves private security to help combat homeless nuisance issues
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson had a concise message for City Council Thursday concerning law enforcement’s role as it pertains to dealing with homelessness issues.
“I don’t think we are going to arrest our way out of this,” Wilson said of a subject that has resurfaced year after year. “As a matter of fact, I guarantee you we are not going to.”
According to Glenwood Springs Police records, 962 adults were arrested in 2010, 181 of whom were self-identified as homeless.
In 2018, 926 adults were arrested, with 482 self-identifying as homeless, which equates to 52 percent of the department’s arrests.
“And, we are right on track to beat that this year,” Wilson explained, as 49 percent of the police department’s 583 arrests thus far in 2019 fell into the homeless demographic.
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The top four causes of arrests within the city’s homeless population included illegal camping, littering, warrants and alcohol-related offenses.
Municipal Court Judge Amanda Maurer described how she continued to see repeat offenders, and how there was only so much the courts — like law enforcement — could do as it related to some of the public nuisance issues associated with homelessness.
“One of the people that is on the docket for this coming Tuesday, and I am sure he is probably under the bridge right now. … How many times can you go and arrest him?” Maurer said. “It’s seriously a problem.”
Between November 2007 and 2019, one self-identified homeless person was arrested 62 different times, according to police records. The same subject was charged 38 times with an open container or drinking in public, 23 times for illegal camping and 13 times for warrants.
City Council was presented with a few different options for consideration, including private security, additional police department staffing and additional camping prohibitions.
Private security would include two to three personnel members between May and October. However, such an addition would carry with it an approximate annual price tag of $113,400.
By comparison, the estimated cost of adding four police officers would be somewhere in the realm of $400,000, council was advised.
City Attorney Karl Hanlon also proposed to councilors the possibility of enacting an around-the-clock camping prohibition. Such a ban could address daytime loitering under the bridge and elsewhere in the downtown area for an extended period of time.
The 24/7 no-camping area would stretch from Ninth Street to Seventh on the south side of the Colorado River, west to Colorado Avenue and east to Cooper. The no-camping area would also include many government buildings, as well as the pedestrian bridge and Sixth Street.
For the time being, council approved hiring private security in particular for the tourist season and during downtown events, such as the Friday night music under the bridge.
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