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Five Points businesses concerned about loitering

Posted: 11:04 PM, Aug 05, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-06 05:04:09Z

DENVER-- After all the attention given to security problems on the 16th Street Mall, some Denver business owners say they're experiencing the same issues, but no one is paying attention to them.

In the Five Points Business District this week, business owners and community members met with police and city officials to discuss issues with loitering, drug use, gambling, panhandling and crime on Welton Street.

While the neighborhood has been quickly changing into a place with trendy coffee shops, breweries and new businesses, on Friday afternoon, a large group of men and women can be seeing smoking and standing on the sidewalk outside several businesses.

"It's all day, everyday," said Natalie Franciose, who works at Urban Herbs and is concerned about large groups of loiterers in front of the store. "We rely heavily on foot traffic for coming into our little shop here, and I think that it’s driving a lot of people away."
 
A few doors down, Mario Conte, co-owner of Station, said it is a difficult balancing act for businesses on Welton Street.

"The people in the dice games come spend money in the shop," said Conte. "We have to walk the balance of fitting in with the community and people on the block but also fitting in with the cops."

Several business owners too afraid of retaliation refused to be identified, but said police are slow to respond to complaints about loitering and don't patrol until things get violent.

Last month, bullets flew all over the street during a shooting.

"I care about Five Points," said Maedella Stiger, who has co-owned a barbershop on Welton Street for 50 years. "They need to have more policemen coming into the area talking to the people. Because we need a village. This is a village. You can’t do this all by yourself."

Stiger said neighbors are worried that gentrification is taking away the culture of the area, and that the place one called "The Harlem of the West" is no longer theirs.

"They tell me for them not to be able to come down here and call this a place of their own, it feels as though the white people are pushing them out of their community," said Stiger.

This week, business owners met with police and city officials to work on a plan for the area, including extra RTD patrols.

"We were talking to RTD about closing the parking lot between midnight and 4 a.m., so they won’t park their cars there," said Tracy Winchester with the Five Points Business District. "Trying to stop the pattern of people congregating where they don’t need to be congregating."

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