DENVER (CBS4) - After patrolling Denver's Union Station for nearly two years, private security guard Matt Fleming had a dire warning this week for commuters catching trains and buses at the RTD transit hub.
"There's significant risks to the public right now," said Fleming. "It's not conducive for regular paying customers to be down here and use the service and rely on RTD as a mode of transportation and it really sucks."
Weary from breaking up constant fights in the Union Station bus terminal, rousting the homeless and watching an unending series of drug deals go down, Fleming told CBS4, "It's not the same as it used to be."
Denver crime statistics bear that out.
The Union Station neighborhood is consistently the second most crime-ridden neighborhood in Denver according to Denver's official crime mapping. For the most recent month available -- Oct. 30 through Nov. 30, 2021 -- there were about 70 crimes reported on the east and west sides of Union Station ranging from armed assaults to drug dealing to thefts.
On a recent pre-dawn trip to Union Station, CBS4 observed dozens of people sleeping or passed out in the lower-level bus terminal. Others appeared to smoke narcotics on the plazas and inside the bus terminal. Twice, young men accosted a CBS4 reporter who was taking pictures, one threatening to stab or assault him if the videotaping continued. Bathrooms in the bus station section of Union Station are now unsafe, according to Fleming.
"If you want to stay safe, stay away from the restroom. Go where you are going and don't make eye contact with people and take stairs instead of the elevator," he recommended.
Fleming said that just an hour earlier, he and his colleagues had revived a young man who had apparently overdosed on fentanyl in the bus terminal.
Kristina Martinez uses Union Station every day to commute to her job in Broomfield but she says she no longer feels safe. She says every day she passes people smoking crack.
"As far as feeling safe -- 100% I do not," she said. "To keep myself safe, I keep my phone out, I do not wear headphones so I am clearly aware of my surroundings and I do carry pepper spray in my pocket at all times.
"The City of Denver -- they encourage public transportation ... but if you don't keep the terminals safe, this is a major deterrent. I just feel so embarrassed as a Denver resident with travelers coming in and having to witness/smell these conditions."
Also up in arms at the deteriorating conditions is the union representing RTD drivers. On Dec. 1, the Amalgamated Transit Union put out a bulletin to its workers decrying "unsafe working conditions" at Denver Union Station.
The union told members they could refuse to work at Union Station "because your employer has failed to provide you a safe workplace. Denver Union Station, the jewel in RTD's crown, is tarnished and RTD is not taking sufficient action to keep us all safe," said the ATU.
RTD spokesperson Pauline Haberman told CBS4 the agency is aware of the "unwelcome activities." She said the agency is increasing transit police patrols during peak periods and "the agency will significantly bolster the security presence at Denver Union Station, its bus concourse and adjacent rail platforms and transit pavilions..." She did not specify when security will be bolstered.
Matt Fleming told CBS4 he had lived in the Denver area 27 years and said it was sad to see this happen to his city.
"It's a really sad state of affairs. We try to do what we can every day. It's a struggle."
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