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Denver's STAR Advisory Committee wants more distinction from Street Enforcement Team

Denver Public Safety: City leaders discuss challenges, propose solutions
Posted at 4:38 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 20:33:19-04

DENVER — The Community Advisory Committee for Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) has issued a statement condemning the city’s Street Enforcement Team and opposing any association between the two programs.

The Community Advisory Committee statement reads:

The Street Enforcement Team is a new Public Safety program designed to send civilian workers to ticket and harass unhoused folks and encampments in Denver as a means to enforce the urban camping ban and other policies that criminalize homelessness. This program is a distortion of community demands to send more appropriate responders to situations instead of law enforcement. The SET program and criminalization of homelessness in Denver stand contrary to STAR values outlined in the draft charter. Given that SET’s approach contradict with STAR values and given increasing community concerns about the conflation of STAR and policing and public safety, the STAR Community Advisory Committee firmly oppose any association, affiliation, and collaboration between the STAR program and efforts to criminalize unhoused people, including through the SET program.

The STAR Program, which has been in operation for two years, dispatches a mental health counselor and paramedic to low-level incidents.

The SET program consists of unarmed civilian units that have the power to ticket citizens for low-level offenses, including violations of the city's urban camping ban.

“Given that they've been so tied together in conversations from the Mayor's office, and from SET, you know, we wanted to make the distinction that these are different programs,” said Vinnie Cervantes, STAR community advisory member and Denver Alliance for Street Health Response director.

Cervantes said the advisory committee takes pride in the fact that STAR offers immediate help for a wide variety of needs.

“It's there to connect people with services, with treatment, with any kind of help that they need. But SET is enforcement,” Cervantes said.

A spokesperson for the Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment, which administers the STAR Program, sent the following statement in response to the advisory committee's concerns:

DDPHE agrees with the STAR Community Advisory Committee (SCAC) that we should clearly communicate the difference between the programs to the community and, per the recommendation of the committee, we’re working on efforts to better delineate between those programs.

Denver7 reached out to the City of Denver’s Department of Safety for comment but did not hear back by the time this report originally aired.