Colorado

Mar 5, 2013 8:58 PM by Jacqui Heinrich, jheinrich@koaa.com

CSPD ramping up patrols in 'No Man's Land'

No man's land: it's a little like the Bermuda Triangle. It's the space in between Old Colorado CIty and Manitou Springs where manicured streets and sidewalks just disappear. It's become a jurisdictional nightmare; it's not exactly patrol territory for Colorado Springs Police, Manitou Springs Police, or El Paso County Sheriff's deputies, and it's a hot spot for panhandlers and crime.

"It got so intense that they were standing by our door and stopping clients as they came in, as they came out, asking them for money," one shop owner in the area said. CSPD responded to the community outcry from this summer, putting more patrol cars in the area and even deputizing officers as sheriff's deputies so they can make arrests outside their jurisdiction. Eighty people have been arrested since August for public drinking and trespassing.

Still, the question remains: is it enough? We asked local shoppers and got a few different answers. "It's about the same, a little less," one man said. A woman shopping at Safeway said, "I generally don't see that many people panhandling". Another shopper said, "There's usually somebody sitting there trying to catch people on their way out," pointing at the street corner.

Local businesses weighed in too. Marie Lopez works at SuperCuts; she says she finally feels safe wallking to her car alone at night. "I haven't really seen a problem lately," she said. "At one point police were even on horses walking through here and that was neat, you felt secure."

Right next door to her workplace, another store employee had a totally different opinion. "I lock my door at dark and let people in individually," Jim Butler, a pharmacy employee said. The Medicine Shoppe where he works was robbed twice; repairs and increased security cost the business more than $11,000, plus the cost of the stolen drugs. Butler says panhandlers are driving away customers. "If I was gonna put a business in the west side, I would not put it in this mall. It's not shopper friendly. The trash they [panhandlers] leave, and they're going into the Good Will bins, raiding those then there's crap all over the parking lot."

We did talk to Colorado Springs Police about the issue; they say come summer, they'll be ramping up their efforts even more, putting officers on horseback and bicycles so they can reach places that panhandlers tend to hang out, like the Midland Trail. In the meantime, they're urging people to call them if they experience any problems; they have officers in the area for exactly that purpose.

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