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1/3 in Survey Feel Safe at Risk Using RTD – CBS Denver

DENVER (CBS4)– While the serious problems of crime, drug use and homelessness at Denver’s Union Station were exposed in media reports last week, prompting both RTD and the mayor of Denver to act now Immediately, these problems became known months, if not years, to RTD and the cities. These issues are the subject of a 19-page study by the American Public Transportation Association that was requested by RTD and presented to the RTD board in June.

Union Station in Denver

(credit: CBS)

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Analysis of Union Station’s outside transit and law enforcement experts and RTD’s overall security issues found or recommended:

  • A third of respondents to an RTD customer safety and security survey said “they have experienced a situation where they felt their personal safety/security was at risk when using RTD services. The most common experiences revolve around disruptive customers, activities, or crowds at Denver Union Station. ”
  • “Disruptive behavior from customers, primarily due to substance abuse or mental health issues, is a primary safety concern,” states the summary.
  • RTD transit officers “are prohibited by Denver authorities from taking coercive action (arrest, citation, etc.)… currently, Denver Police must be dispatched to the incident site to take action.” whatever action they deem appropriate even if an RTD transit officer is present at the scene. ”
  • “RTD is experiencing public health and security challenges at the facility,” the report states.

RTD General Manager and CEO Debra Johnson requested a peer review. But CBS4 found that many of the recommendations had not been followed, and that other recent ground rules issued by the RTD in January 2021, such as a ban on lying or sitting on the floor at Union Station and limits on the number of people in the bathroom is not enforced. and is being ignored.

Pauletta Tonilas, RTD’s Assistant General Manager of Communications, told CBS4, “Welcome to the challenges we face. There are some bolder solutions that will have to happen. “

RELATED: Security Force: Denver’s Union Station ‘Dropped by Crime & Drugs’, Is a ‘Major Risk To Customers’

When CBS4 came to visit Union Station and Underground Bus Terminal Before dawn last week, dozens of apparently homeless men and women were sleeping on the floors. Others openly smoked what appeared to be illegal drugs. A private security guard who works at the transit center told CBS4 there’s not much the guards can do.

(credit: CBS)

“It is our policy to educate and notify law enforcement,” he said. “There are significant risks to the public right now.”

Those concerns were reflected in the APTA report recommending addressing “legal issues that prohibit RTD transit officers from taking direct law enforcement action within the City and County of Denver.”

RTD spends about $30 million annually on security employing 20 transit officers and 305 contracted armed security personnel.

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But the report notes that private security guards only receive about three weeks of general training before being sent to the front lines, and that turnover rates for private security guards are as high as 84% ​​by January 2021. The national average turnover rate for security staff contracts is 40%.

Following media reports last week, RTD announced it would be using TSA agents to help patrol Union Station along with a group of volunteers called Guardian Angels. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he is directing employees to meet immediately with RTD management and the transportation union.

“Continuing to use illegal drugs, pee in public and roam unsafely is not allowed,” Hancock said.

But Tonilas admits the problems have been evident for a long time, “We do what we can.”

In recent months, she said, RTD has hired eight new full-time transit officers, three mental health clinicians and a homeless outreach coordinator.

But she acknowledged many of the recommendations in the report obtained by CBS4 were not implemented due to affordability and other constraints.

“This will continue to grow,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

The APTA report said interviews with RTD-related officers revealed, “The Denver Union Transit Security Officers could simply stand around and watch while the police transit the RTD. response, which takes 30 to 45 minutes, and security officers do not have the authority to escort anyone off the property or the bus. If you’re limiting security officers’ ability to react, put more actual transit officers out on the patrol, not in the garage. Give security officers the authority they need to secure areas, instead of waiting for a response from another agency.”

The president of the union representing RTD workers called Union Station a “hellhole” and said it was unsafe for RTD workers to spend time at Union Station.

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LINK: Read the report presented to RTD in June

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/12/06/union-station-rtd-safety/ 1/3 in Survey Feel Safe at Risk Using RTD – CBS Denver

Huynh Nguyen

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