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South Broadway merchants eye solution to crime, homelessness, drugs in Denver: "Business is dying"

South Broadway merchants eye solution to crime, homelessness, drugs in Denver
South Broadway merchants eye solution to crime, homelessness, drugs in Denver 02:25

Saying constant crime, homelessness, and drugs are pushing businesses to the brink of closing, merchants along Denver's South Broadway corridor have begun the process of establishing a business improvement district. That would allow the area to hire its own private security personnel to address ongoing problems.


"It's constant, I'll be honest, it's constant," said Luke Johnson, who has owned a pet supply store on Broadway for the last eight years. Johnson is also President of the Broadway Merchants Association.

"It's a weekly problem," said Johnson of the crime, vandalism and disorder. 

He cited a break-in at his store last October in which the thief stole the company safe. In other cases, he said he has had his windows smashed out "for no reason" and people walking into the store stealing. 

"It's everybody down here- I'm not unique," said Johnson.

In January, a man broke into the Roxy restaurant and music venue, rummaged through the business, contaminating food and alcohol, and attempted to set fires. General Manager Bryce Fox says the venue had to close down for two days, costing it an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in lost revenue. 

"It's been tough," said Fox who recalled another person throwing a brick through their glass door for no apparent reason.

Video shows a man with a pole smashing in the front door and window of a business at 1st and Broadway. SimpliSafe

In the first week of March, a video shows a man with a pole smashing into the front door and window of a business at 1st and Broadway.

Business owners say police, who are already stretched thin, can't respond in a timely way to all the calls for help. 

"Because when we have a violent individual on Broadway, unless there's like a gun involved or a knife and someones bleeding out, it's very hard for them to respond," said Johnson.

There are an estimated 200 to 225 property owners along the corridor, from about 6th Avenue to I-25. Johnson says the BID budget would likely be around $1 million a year, raised from assessments on area property owners, and about $700,000 of that would be used to hire private, unarmed security guards to patrol the area 24 hours a day.

"What's the alternative at this point?" Johnson asked. The business owner went on to say the district will have to rely on its property owners to "Address an issue the city should be addressing."

"It's the homelessness epidemic, that's part of it. It's the drug epidemic, that's part of it," said Johnson. "I think the drug use is a huge problem." 


Other neighborhoods in Denver,  like Cherry Creek North, have established business improvement districts and have hired private security to patrol the neighborhood. 

Nick LeMasters, President and CEO of the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District said they brought in private security in 2020 as part of a "proactive approach." 

"Most recent crime statistics show a rather substantial decrease in overall criminal activity. We're proud of what we've done but want to do more," said LeMasters.

He said the district is now considering installing cameras to read license plates that would send instant alerts to police when the cameras identify stolen vehicles in the area. LeMasters said their security commitment is aimed at "enhancing the overall customer experience."

Johnson said the hope was to have the Broadway BID in place by the end of 2024 or the start of 2025, "We don't have a choice at this point."

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