DENVER — A side effect of the pandemic can be seen along city streets across Denver. More people are unhoused and trying to survive, but local businesses are blaming these growing homeless camps for a spike in crime.
“It has escalated quite a bit since the beginning of the year, where we have had the homeless moved or migrated,” said Juan Munoz, who runs an inspection specialty company impacted by the crimes.
Denver police said the department has seen a spike in vehicle-related thefts in the 1200 block of E. 39th Avenue since May, where Munoz operates his business.
Munoz had two generators stolen from his company's trucks last month, all of which was captured on surveillance video.
“It makes it difficult for us to continue operating,” Munoz said. “Those generators are valued at over $2,500 apiece,” he said.
“We’ve been hit with a trailer theft. Our vehicles have been broken into on three separate occasions,” said Dwane Haskins, who owns Custom HPACES in the same business park.
Haskins said as the nearby homeless camps grew, crime in the area went up with it.
“It’s a direct correlation. It’s a struggle to deal with things like this,” he said.
Denver’s District Five Police Commander Marcus Fountain said he doesn’t think the homeless are solely responsible.
“So, though we do have a small homeless population in that particular area. I think it’s a stretch to say that the homeless are responsible for a spike in motor vehicle crimes,” he said.
But Fountain did confirm the theft involving Munoz’s generators was linked back to a nearby homeless camp and said police have increased patrols in the area.
Another factor at play, police said, is that officers are having to arrest the same criminals multiple times because they are being released from jail so quickly due to the pandemic.
“And after a while, people they start realizing that even if they get arrested, they’re not going to be in jail very long,” Fountain said.
“It’s a nightly situation here. Something needs to be done [by] the city or somebody that has the power to do something with these people or relocate them,” Munoz said.
For these Denver business owners, they want someone to do something about Denver’s homeless population.
“I’m a little disheartened with Denver. It just kind of makes you wonder if this is the best place for us. Should we move to another city?” Haskins said.