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Denver police struggle to refer low-level crime offenders to resource center

The AID center, located next to the Denver jail, serves a one-stop shop offering repeat offenders programs for housing, employment and addiction treatment.

DENVER — The building on 14th Avenue and Elati Street is strategic – it's the AID Center or Assessment, Intake and Diversion Center is located right across the street from Denver's jail to help people who need resources instead of time behind bars. 

According to the city's Department of Safety (DOS), police officers in downtown helped come up with this diversion plan but DOS Executive Director Armando Saldate said less than 10% of referrals are coming from Denver police officers. 

He explained the Denver Police Department has been a great partner, but its downtown officers are running into some challenges to refer someone to the AID Center. 

"I think in some cases there may be reluctance from the community member that they don't know what that is," Saldate said. 

He explained one problem officers face is resistance from people who need help. 

Instead of going to jail for a low-level crime, someone can be diverted to the AID Center. Saldate said officers wanted another option because they continued to see the same people they put into jail out in the community re-offending the same low-level offenses. 

According to safety department, of the 769 referrals to the AID center since November, 66 of those referrals or 8.5% came from police. 

Saldate said another reason for the low rate is warrants. 

"A lot of times for low-level crime that person will likely have a warrant for that same crime or low-level offense," said Saldate. 

Diverting someone to the AID Center who has a warrant becomes difficult, Saldate said, because that warrant has to be addressed. 

On July 8, 57 people with outstanding Denver warrants lined up outside the AID center to clear 77 outstanding warrants. The Fresh Start program is a collaborative effort of several city agencies to clear up thousands of outstanding city and state misdemeanor warrants for people who have failed to appear for their cases in Denver County Court. 

An outstanding warrant could lead to a person being denied housing or employment. 

“Where appropriate, we believe in second chances, and the Fresh Start program is designed to provide just that,” commented Carlon Manuel, director AID Center after the event. 

In addition to reluctance and outstanding warrants, Saldate said transportation can also be an issue. 

"It is something that is not widely accessible," Saldate said. "It is something we have tried to mitigate with free bus passes. It's hard to tell them, 'Hey, you just get on the "L" line of the bus, transfer here and get there' is much better if we are able to take them."

Right now the AID Center is open during normal business hours. So if an officer runs into someone late at night that can be an issue too. Having a center open 24 hours a day would mean additional funding and resources. 

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