AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora is launching a new grant program that aims to help clean up an area with a reputation for crime.
The Aurora Safety and Security Grant Program launches Monday. Eligible businesses, nonprofits and community groups can apply and receive money in order to make safety and security upgrades.
The $3 million program has $500,000 earmarked for businesses along East Colfax Avenue between Yosemite Street and Peoria Avenue and between 14th and 16th avenues — an area more commonly known as East Colfax.
Eligible East Colfax businesses will receive a $10,000 grant to install new cameras, lights, alarms or other security features.
The money is being pulled from the American Rescue Plan Act aid the city received during the pandemic. The installation of additional safety features will be done by city-approved contractors.
Sara Erkes, owner of The Bong Shop, plans to apply.
"We were broken into for the first time about a month ago," she said. "They took a crowbar to the door. We caught it on video, they were in and out in six minutes."
In that short time, Erkes says the thief was able to get away with about $2,000-worth of merchandise.
"We're all trying to pay our bills too, and it's all rolling downhill. It's affecting us all," she said. "I will probably never see that money [back]."
The city's efforts come as President Joe Biden urges state and local leaders to invest federal funds into community safety.
"I do, I feel like some of the businesses have left [the area] because it's too dangerous," Erkes said.
"We have a lot of street robberies, we have a lot of burglaries. We have a lot of assaults, a lot of drugs on Colfax. And it's just kind of rampant right now," said Keith Burke, an Aurora police officer.
Burke hopes the grant will encourage businesses to stay.
"I think the biggest, the two biggest things that I would encourage everybody to update is your lighting and camera systems," he said. "Lighting along Colfax and camera systems that we can use so when a crime does occur, we can identify the person."