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Increased patrols in Denver crime hotspots a 'Band-Aid,' not solution, some say

Norma Brambila, Westwood Unidos
Posted at 5:31 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 19:58:20-04

DENVER -- The Denver Police Department said Monday it considers the area near West Alameda Avenue and South Federal Boulevard as one of five crime hotspots in the city, with plans to prevent and reduce crime by increasing patrol and working with neighbors.

The Westwood neighborhood nearby has seen its fair share of crime over the years, according to Norma Brambila, the safety coordinator for Westwood Unidos, a nonprofit helping to shape people into leaders.

"It was a very dangerous neighborhood with a high rate of crime, drugs, liquor stores, and prostitution bars," she said.

She credits her organization for helping to clean up alleys and remove graffiti, which in turn has helped the neighborhood see a decrease in crime. But the neighborhood is changing again.

"A lot of the crime and graffiti has returned," Brambila said.

She blames the increasing crime on the pandemic because more kids and teens are at home, their parents are working and the schools are closed. There's a lack of supervision.

"It destroys you because it not only destroys the person or a victim … it also destroys a family and community environment because we all live here," Brambila said.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen wants to disrupt crime patterns in the area surrounding and including the Westwood neighborhood to hopefully prevent crimes from ever occurring.

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"This would include foot patrol. It would include bike patrol in these neighborhoods, getting officers out of cars," he said.

But Brambila worries a bigger police presence won't solve the problem.

"We put Band-Aids on the wounds, but, in reality, we don’t try to heal the wounds," she said.

Instead, she wants more government funding for programs and activities to keep the youth busy -- and out of trouble.

That's what JoAnna Cintro, the executive director of Re:Vision, a nonprofit helping families grow food gardens in Westwood, is trying to do. She recently got a government grant to provide jobs for teens.

"We're actually going to give ten summer jobs to youth in the neighborhood who are actually going to actually help us run our farmer's market," she said.

Like Brambila, she believes the neighborhood needs more resources.

"I don't think policing in neighborhoods that are underserved ever helps and ever really acknowledges or addresses the root causes of any of these actual problems," Cintro said.

Brambila isn't sure whether seeing more officers on the streets will help prevent and reduce crime, but she's sure it'll make neighbors feel more nervous.

"Right now, there are many people without a license. There are people who leave their kids alone for some time to go to work," she said. "It's a hit to the family, and as I say, not a hit to crime."

Chief Pazen is sure these crime-prevention methods will work.

"It is critical that we point out that these are proven strategies to focus on crime while fully developing the support of our residents in order to have residents and business owners take a more collaborative approach, a more supportive approach, to their own safety, utilizing the community policing strategies like high visibility patrol," he said.