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Saturday, January 22, 2022

RTD Closes Union Station Toilets, Denver Police Increase Presence Amid Criminal Concerns

The Regional Transportation District has closed public toilets at Union Station at least until the end of the year, and the agency is looking into the possibility of cordoning off part of the terminal so that it is only accessible to people who pay the fare. officials say.

Denver police, meanwhile, made “numerous arrests” around the station last week, according to chief Paul Pazin, as officials work to stem drug escalations and other unwanted activities at the city’s troubled central transportation hub.

RTD General Manager and CEO Debra Johnson briefed the agency’s board of public safety efforts at Union Station during a December 7 meeting.

Bathrooms at the station’s underground bus station were closed on Dec. 3 after tests found traces of fentanyl on surfaces, Johnson said. Although the drug level was not dangerous, the agency uses the temporary blackout to repair and install permanent toilet doors.

“Public toilets will be closed for the rest of the year until doors are installed and protocols and procedures are in place, such as a full-time toilet attendant in the form of a security guard,” Johnson told the board of directors one last time. week.

RTD representatives are also exploring the possibility of adding infrastructure to the terminal to create a separate area accessible only to paying customers. It’s a process that involves exploring “innovative sources of finance,” Johnson said. Infrastructure could mean turnstiles or gates, according to RTD spokesman Pauletta Tonilas.

In an interview with the Denver Post earlier this month, Johnson said the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues have turned Union Station into a gathering place for people not visiting their destinations, making paying customers feel unwelcome and insecure. …

Terminal space changes are moving forward as the Denver Police Department strengthens their enforcement efforts around the station’s campus.

Johnson announced in late November that RTD is recruiting groups of TSA agents and volunteer guardian angel members to increase the number of observers watching illegal activity around the station, even if none of the groups have the authority to enforce local laws.

Mayor Michael Hancock pledged to city officials to “redouble our efforts to keep (Union Station) clean and safe for all …” in a December 3 statement. On the same day, Johnson met with DPD’s Pazin to discuss how the police department could help. RTD Transit Police and Contract Security Officers.

DPD officers have since made several arrests at the Union Station campus, Pazen said last week, including on drug charges and outstanding warrants. He declined to discuss how many officers had been assigned to the area, but said the department also assigned a social worker and members of its substance use navigation team to spend time there.

“We have committed significant resources to address these challenges, including counter-drug measures,” Pazen said. “We are committed to working with our RTD partners to address these issues appropriately, and we will continue to work together until these issues are resolved.”

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The department’s interactive crime map shows that between December 3 and Wednesday, December 8, there were 36 reports of crimes in the areas around the Union Station campus filed. Of these, 15 were related to drugs and alcohol. The message does not necessarily mean the arrest was made, DPD spokesman Doug Shepman said in an email.

RTD doesn’t just make changes at the bus station. On Wednesday morning, a contractor hired by a transport agency began demolishing 16 stone benches near the terminal’s two ground-level pavilions, Tonilas confirmed. Demolition was first reported by Denverite.

Tonilas on Thursday did not attribute the work to attempts to reduce homelessness in the area. According to her, the agency planned to replace the stone pedestals with paving stones and landscaping.

“We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the space down there and how to modify the space to stimulate foot traffic and expand the green space on this site, and are just exploring how this space can be used more productively,” she said.

Another outdoor seating area, located between the two pavilions, has been fenced in for months, while its management area is planning its own redesign. The closure was put in place in part to protect plants and landscaping and to prevent drug use in the area, Central Platte Valley Metropolitan County Manager Anna Jones told The Denver Post.

Closing the toilet could have implications for people outside the home, said Katie Alderman, spokesman for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. Without accessible public spaces in the area, homeless people may have to go to toilets in side streets and other open areas, opening them up to criminal penalties that perpetuate problems finding work and securing stable housing.

“I understand why they might need to do this for a while, but I hope this will not be a long-term closure,” Alderman said. “This is a public place and we must treat it with respect.”

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