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Costs over Occupy Denver movement debated

5:46 AM, Oct 23, 2011   |    comments
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Still, the Colorado State Patrol, the Denver Sheriff's Office and Denver's police department are devoting significant manpower to the protests to keep crowds under control, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime.

Police arrested more than 40 people over the course of last weekend. No protesters had been arrested Saturday as of 4:30 p.m.

While the state has yet to release its costs for the protests, the City and County of Denver spent nearly $365,000 through Friday on officer and deputy overtime, as well as park cleanup, according to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's office.

"You can't plan for this," Hancock said at a community forum at West High School Saturday. "We're at a point in the city where we simply can't afford any major surprises."

Hancock says the city has yet to dip into the contingency fund, but says it is an option in the future if protests continue to grow.

"This is what contingencies are for," Hancock said. "We would prefer not to use it for this sort of thing, but you know again, you can't prepare for these sorts of things."

Saturday, Occupy Denver protestors said Denver and the State of Colorado are deploying too much law enforcement to watch over the movement.

"Yes, it's costing every city money. It's costing every state money," Occupy Denver organizer Jeannie Hartley said. "But that is a necessary part of this process, if we are going to bring to light all these issues that are plaguing enough people to come out and say something about it."

Tanner Smedley, another Occupy Denver organizer, says the city could be using the money to prevent homelessness.

"I think that money could have been better spent," he said. "Hancock just came out saying he's going to kick the homeless people out of the 16th Street Mall. He could put that $300,000 putting the homeless in shelters."

Hancock said Saturday he is exploring solutions to keep people from sleeping on the 16th Street Mall overnight, though no policy language has been discussed at a city council level.

"Let's not try to arrest our way out of this thing," he said. "But let's address it with good compassion, with a strategic thought and mind making sure we do what we can to help the folks who need it the most."

As for the Occupy Denver costs, Hancock says he's continuing to monitor the costs, as they will certainly grow with this weekend's march.

"Right now, I can't specifically stipulate where it's going to come from," he said. "Some departments may say, 'We can move some things around to help cover the cost of overtime,' but we'll see how it all shakes out."

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Occupy Denver costs through Friday

Denver Police Department - $237,000
Denver Sheriff's Department - $116,000
Denver Health - $10,000
Public Works - $1,300
Environmental Health - $500

Source: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's Office

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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