DENVER — The CEO who runs a Denver clothing bank says police failed to arrest a three-time burglary suspect, even after he pointed out the alleged culprit to officers and showed them security video.
"The damage he has done has cost us literally thousands and thousands of dollars," said Travis Singhaus, founder of Impact Locally, the nonprofit that operates Impact Humanity clothing store at 2526 Welton Street.
Singhaus said Humanity is one of nine programs the nonprofit operates to "basically restore dignity and hope to those living out on the street."
He said the impetus for the nonprofit was his own homelessness 12 years ago.
"I actually saw what people experienced, and the realities they face day to day changed me forever," he said.
Singhaus said he started getting together with friends in May of 2010, making sack lunches and handing them out.
"A few months after doing that, I started realizing not only the importance of food, but just how desperate people were for clothing," he said, "We started handing out winter coats and gloves."
He said people were still having to get stuff out of a parking lot or a park, which wasn't dignified.
"Unless you've had to shop out of garbage bag or a bin, you don't know what that's like, so we wanted to open a store where people could come in and shop for free. They could get clothing off a rack, try it on in a fitting room and they could feel like a normal human being coming in to a normal store."
Singhaus said they keep nothing of value in the store.
There is no safe, no money and no computers, just clothing and sack lunches, which are given away for free, he said.
That's why he was surprised when someone broke into the store on April 24 through a kitchen window. The culprit was captured on the store's security system.
Two weeks later, the same individual apparently broke in again, this time through a bathroom window. That burglary was also captured on security video.
On June 21, there was a third break-in, with the suspect breaking a back room window.
Singhaus said it was the same individual again.
All three windows are covered with plywood.
"We had to keep them boarded up because we can't afford to keep replacing these windows," he said. "We're a nonprofit."
Singhaus said the burglar was in the store for three hours, Monday night into Tuesday, ransacking the place, knocking over clothing racks and tearing out the exit sign and wiring.
He said this time, the culprit was apparently armed and left behind a butcher knife, which has been turned over to the Denver Police Department.
The CEO said he was attending a meeting later in the day Tuesday and decided to stop at the Safeway store at 20th Avenue and Washington Street.
"And there the guy is sitting down with four other guys underneath a tree," he said. "I called 911, gave them the case number and an officer showed up one-and-a-half hours later."
Singhaus said that as officers went to wake the guy up, "he actually swung to try and punch one of the officers." He said they took his fingerprints and put him in the cruiser.
"I didn't want him to know who I was or what business I was associated with," Singhaus said, "but the officer called me over and asked is this the guy?"
Singhaus said he answered that it was.
He said as he was driving off, he saw the officer pull the guy out of the vehicle, remove the handcuffs and let him go.
The CEO went back to talk to the officers and was told the man was ordered to go in and talk to detectives.
"I'm like, this guy is 90% homeless," he said. "The possibility of you finding somebody that's homeless again is next to none, unless you just get lucky."
Singhaus was not happy.
"Unless this guy is the dumbest man on the planet, no one is coming in when they know you have their fingerprints and they know you have video footage and they know they're connected to three burglaries, one of them armed," he said.
Singhaus added that it was incredibly frustrating to see officers do that.
"It made me think, are we safe?" he said. "If somebody who's armed breaks into my business and you're going to let them go after you have their finger prints and video footage, and you have my personal identification of the guy, what's to stop this guy if he comes back?"
He said it essentially forces the nonprofit to look at hiring a security guard.
"We're also dealing with the anxiety this puts me and my staff under," he said. "I flat out told him, after today, my faith in Denver police is done."
"It's one thing if you think it might be the guy. He fits the description, but you don't have somebody identifying him on the scene or you don't have evidence, fingerprints, video footage — just somebody saying, 'Oh I saw a guy that looked like that.' That's one thing, and I would completely understand that," Singhaus said. "But when you have a mountain of evidence saying this is the guy and somebody personally right there, saying, 'Yes, that's the guy.' That's something else."
He said that raises the specter of vigilante justice.
"Basically what you're telling the community is we won't protect you. Your job is to protect and serve," he said. "So people like me and anybody else in any of these neighborhoods, are we supposed just let it happen, or are we supposed to take matters into our own hands? That's not a good thing. That's a horrible thing."
Singhaus said when people stop feeling safe, they start living in a heightened state of threatened being.
"Guess what they'll do," he said. "They will do that [take matters into their own hands], or they will just be on edge everywhere they go. That means they'll be more confrontational throughout their day. That means their quality of life goes way down."
Denver7 asked DPD about Singhaus' claims, and a spokesman issued this email in reply:
"The investigation into these cases is still ongoing. Investigators continue to work on gathering information to identify a suspect. At this time there are no arrests. We encourage anyone with any information regarding this case to call crime stoppers at 720-913-STOP."