DENVER — Denver Police said they arrested 42 people at Union Station, mostly for misdemeanor warrants and drug possession offenses, during an enforcement operation on Wednesday.
DPD said the "large-scale" operation focused on arresting people with outstanding warrants and people who were seen engaging in illegal activities. The Denver Sheriff's Department assisted with the operation.
A spokesperson for Denver Union Station, which manages the Great Hall, Crawford Hotel, and restaurants and retail spaces inside the building, said the operation took place at the RTD bus terminal.
"We support the ongoing efforts of the Denver Police Department and RTD who manage the security of the public transit areas and outdoor plazas," the spokesperson said.
In December last year, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced it was taking action in response to "unwelcome activities" at the station.
That included closing restrooms on the bus concourse level to discourage drug use. At the time, a spokesperson said that was done after a trace amount of fentanyl was discovered in one of the bathrooms.
“The Denver Police Department, Mayor Hancock, and City partners have vowed to address illegal activity and other challenges at this vital transportation and business hub, and yesterday’s arrests demonstrate our commitment to curbing crime and making this space safe for everyone,” DPD Chief Paul M. Pazen said.
“Our ongoing efforts will continue to focus on violent, property and narcotics-related crimes in the area, with an emphasis on holding accountable individuals who prey upon those suffering from addiction.”
Of the 42 arrests made, 10 were for felony offenses, including the distribution of a controlled substance, DPD said. The remaining arrests involved misdemeanor warrants and drug possession offenses.
During Wednesday's operation, DPD’s Outreach Case Coordinator contacted 10 people who were in need of assistance, providing information on relevant services and the resources available to them.
Since Jan. 1, DPD has made more than 500 arrests at Union Station. For context, DPD said they made 45 arrests at Union Station in January 2021.
The department said part of this increase in arrests is due to an uptick in criminal activity and enforcement in the area.
Safety is something the union that represents RTD bus and train operators has been concerned about for a while.
"It was really out of control," said Ronald Short, VP of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001. "The drug activity, drug use, employees getting assaulted or accosted just going to the restroom from their buses."
Those concerns prompted Denver police to patrol at the bus terminal more this year. More than half of the 42 arrests on Wednesday were for drug-related offenses, from distribution to possession of paraphernalia. Police said fentanyl is the drug they see the most often.
"Because of the availability and the cheap price of fentanyl, it has really exploded in Denver, but really throughout the country," DPD Commander Aaron Sanchez said.
Sanchez said some operations focus on enforcement, while others focus on outreach.
"We are going down there with pamphlets, bottles of water, with social workers, with clinicians and just offering people services," Sanchez said.
Sometimes they don't seek help and police end up arresting them again. According to Sanchez, they are seeing the same individuals that go to jail come back to the terminal the next day.
"We are not the expert in rehabilitation or mental health and so we are working with strong partners trying to get people in the services they need," Sanchez said.
The union thinks the effort is making an impact and sending a strong message to those who come here for the wrong reason.
"This area is now being watched so you can't be comfortable here anymore," Short said.
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