Photos: Police chief, DA and others speak at crime-focused ‘BusinessDen Forum’


Six panelists, including business owners and city officials, discussed the rise in crime since the pandemic and its impact on business and real estate at a “BusinessDen Forum” event on Wednesday, presented by the law firm Ireland Stapleton and held at the Thompson Denver hotel downtown. 

Walter Isenberg of Sage Hospitality said his hotel group spends about $1 million annually for private security at each of its downtown properties: The Crawford Hotel at Union Station, The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block, The Rally Hotel at McGregor Square and The Oxford.

“It’s particularly distasteful that we’re spending $4 million a year on something we feel the public sector should be doing for us,” Isenberg said, while noting that he supports the Denver Police Department and sees it as stretched for resources.

Police Chief Ron Thomas said the increased demand for private security has allowed the department to work “in partnership” with the firm so that his officers can respond to higher-risk calls.

Also speaking at the event were Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, about trends her office has seen in crime; Cole Chandler, Denver’s senior advisor for homelessness resolution, about the city’s efforts to clear encampments and house those living on the streets; Jeff Rauske, president of Advantage Security, about retaining employees and challenges facing the private security industry; and attorney Tom Downey of Ireland Stapleton, about informal ways that residents and businesses share information regarding crime and how safety can be addressed in “Good Neighbor Agreements.”

To end the forum, each of the five was asked something the average Denver resident can do that makes them part of the solution. 

Ireland Stapleton’s Tom Downey: “Treat your business the way you do your home. There’s something special about being in Denver; there’s a reason we’re here. Think about that for your business — don’t give up. Second, organize for the same reason you maintain your home. Work with the officials, work with your attorneys, work with your real estate agents and other folks on doing the things you can for your business, the same way you do for your home. Denver is special and we’re going to get through this thing. It’s just a question of taking care of each other.” 

Advantage Security’s Jeff Rauske: “Don’t give up. It’s easy to get frustrated with what you see. There’s a theory in criminology called broken window — it’s basically giving up on your area because of the crime you see every day. We have to have patience and tenacity to fight for our communities. That means policing your areas, doing what you can to clean up your neighborhood. This is not going to be solved by one entity … we have to work together.” 

Senior Advisor for Homelessness Resolution Cole Chandler: “We know what works. We need to do it at scale. That’s something I want to see change in the public conversation we’re having around this. We don’t need to debate whether or not people need services — people need services. We don’t need to debate whether or not people need to be indoors — people need to be indoors. We need to do it at the scale required and do it within a full public policy approach that brings in all the elements we talked about here. We know Denver is a good city that wants to be a part of serving our neighbors.” 

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann: “I believe that as an elected official, I need to be out in the community. The folks that work for me need to understand what is going on in the community. People call me, email me about individual cases, that’s perfectly fine, it helps me understand what people are concerned about so we can make sure we’re responding appropriately.”

Chief of Police Ron Thomas: “Activation and engagement. Neighborhoods, communities and business districts that are activated are less prone to crime. And then engagement, with your neighbors, with your police department – I think engaged communities are always safer communities.” 

Sage Hospitality’s Walter Isenberg: “The single most important thing we can do is pay attention to our local elections. Everybody is focused on the presidential election … local elections have a bigger impact than anything else on our lives.”

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