Police Chief White addresses criticism of department's handling of LoDo attacks in 7NEWS interview

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DENVER - After a string of brutal attacks on New Year's in Lower Downtown, Denver Police Chief Robert White maintains the city's most popular entertainment district is safe.

"Do you think downtown, the LoDo area, is a safe place to be at night?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.

"I do think it's safe. Is it free of crime? No, it's not free of crime, just the given the magnitude of the number of individuals down there," White said.

Despite the chief's reassurances, the police department is facing criticism that it didn't alert the public about the New Year's Day attacks until Monday -- a full five days after the assaults occurred. 7NEWS has been approached by two victims who complained that no one was warning the public about the attacks.

The three blitz attacks badly injured four people within 45 minutes. The victims, who are white, tell 7NEWS they were jumped without warning by groups of black men. Some of the victims were knocked out. One man regained consciousness in an ambulance taking him to the hospital.

"We as the media learned about [the attacks], because the victims came forward to us. We didn't hear about it through police communication. Is that in-line with your policy of transparency?" Stewart asked the chief.

"No.  I mean obviously, we'd like to get out information, if we think it's of some relevance to the community," White said.

The chief stressed that the department's public Crime Alerts are only effective if they point to a trend, and police may not be able to confirm a crime pattern overnight.

"In hindsight, do you feel this could have been handled differently, or do you think this was done by the book?" Stewart asked.

"You're asking me, could we have gotten it out earlier?" White said. "If we just acted on one or two of those incidents, we could have gotten out earlier. But after looking at the three of them collectively, and looking at, was there a possible pattern, we couldn't have gotten it out earlier because we didn't get all of the information from all of the three crimes at the same time," said White.

White says none of the police HALO security cameras posted in the area captured any of the attacks. He adds that it's too early to say if the attacks were racially motivated.

But the chief underscored that Denver remains a safe city, where there has been double-digit drop in the crime rate since 2011.

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