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'Roaming Charges': Broncos Peddlers Charged, Vow To Resist

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)- As many as a dozen street vendors who sell everything from water to peanuts to scarves outside Denver Broncos games are facing minor criminal charges. They have allegedly violated the terms of their peddlers licenses by failing to continuously move.

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"I definitely think it was unfair and I definitely don't think it was justified at all," said Gail Edwards, one of the licensed peddlers.

She was cited before the Broncos vs. Raiders game on Sept. 16. "I just feel a jury of reasonable peers would see this the same way."

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Edwards and her husband Jay have been Broncos season ticket holders for 11 years. In 2013, they decided to work before the home games by selling clear plastic bags and other fan friendly items to fans walking to the game. They underwent criminal background checks and purchased peddlers licenses from Denver's Excise and Licenses Department.

They said they never had any real issues until Sept. 16 when plainclothes Denver police officers cited them for failing to comply with the conditions of their license. As many as a dozen other licensed peddlers were cited on the same day. According to Edwards and various court documents, the men and women violated their agreements by allegedly setting up in stationary positions and failing to "continuously move," a provision of the city code.

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According to the Department of Excise and Licenses, "Peddlers must engage in roaming sales and may not occupy any one particular location while engaged in peddler activity, nor may peddlers set up, display , or exhibit their goods and merchandise at any one location. Peddlers may stop to make or complete one sale; however after the sale is complete, the peddler must resume roaming."

The city says in this case roaming means "to move about or travel aimlessly or unsystematically, especially over a wide area. Shuffling from foot–to-foot or walking in a tight circle does not constitute "roaming."'

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Edwards said it's hard to comply with those precise provisions since she says they have a constant line of customers buying scarves, bags, gloves and other Bronco themed items from them, "We don't really need to move since customers are coming to us constantly. I think it needs to be reviewed."

Lisa Santos, an attorney representing Jay and Gail Edwards, called the city action "insane." Santos said the city municipal code that requires constant ambling is overbroad and ambiguous.

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"This needs to end and this needs to stop," said Santos. "It's a waste of the city's resources, a waste of my clients time and all of our time."

So why the crackdown on the licensed peddlers?

Eric Escudero, a spokesperson for Excise and Licenses, told CBS4 terrorism fears were the root cause of the bust.

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"We have to worry about those things in Denver and we can be a target and we have to take very step to protect public safety. Any time there is someone in a large crowd standing in place with a big item or a cooler, that's a hiding spot for a detonation device, a weapon of mass destruction".

Escudero cited the terrorist attack in Manchester, England last May during an Ariana Grande concert. A suicide bomber detonated a device during the show. Twenty-two people were killed and hundreds of others were injured.

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"We have to worry about those things in Denver and we can be a target and we have to take every step to protect public safety," said Escudero.

Ryan Broughton, Denver's Emergency Manager and Homeland Security Director echoed Escudero's comments.

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"After the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017, the City and County of Denver looked for best practices, which we could apply to best prevent and mitigate the potential effects of such an emergency at our local sporting, entertainment, and special event venues. The effective enforcement of existing ordinances, rules, and regulations is a recurring lesson learned in preventing or mitigating impacts from emergencies around the world."

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Edwards responded, "With all the people walking down the street, if someone wanted to do something I don't think it would be someone with a peddlers license."

Those licenses cost $50 to obtain and applicants undergo a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check as well as a criminal check by the City and County of Denver.

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When Escudero was asked about the difference between a terrorist roaming around in a crowd on its way to a Bronco game or staying in one position, he said, "When these top safety experts say this makes Denver safer, we follow that guidance."

Santos called the enforcement, "a waste of the cities resources, a waste of my clients time and all of our time."

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Escudero counters that, "Protecting public safety is a great use of taxpayer resources."

Gail and Jay Edwards say they will not accept plea bargain deals from the city and intend to take their cases to trial.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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