Denver police make 42 arrests at Union Station after outcry about safety concerns

Posted at 8:17 PM, Feb 24, 2022

DENVER — Denver police arrested more than 40 people inside RTD's bus terminal transit areas at Denver Union Station Wednesday in a large-scale enforcement operation.

The Denver Police Department (DPD) said officers arrested 42 people, with a focus on individuals with outstanding warrants and those seen participating in illegal activities. Of those arrests, 10 were for felony offenses. The others involved misdemeanor warrants and drug possession offenses, DPD said. In addition, DPD's Outreach Case Coordinator contacted 10 people in the area who were in need of assistance to provide relevant services.

This was the largest operation to date to improve safety in downtown Denver, DPD said.

Since the first day of 2022, DPD officers have made more than 500 arrests at Union Station.

“Our ongoing efforts will continue to focus on violent, property and narcotics-related crimes in the area, with an emphasis on holding accountable individuals who prey upon those suffering from addiction," said DPD Chief Paul Pazen.

No arrests were made inside the historic building, which is a privately leased, privately operated entity.

In a statement, Denver Union Station said: "The Denver Union Station Alliance contracts an independent security team to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for our guests, our associates, and the community within our space. We support the ongoing efforts of the Denver Police Department and RTD who manage the security of the public transit areas and outdoor plazas."

Wednesday's arrests in the bus terminal transit areas came in the wake of an uproar over safety problems in the area.

"It’s a hellhole. It is," Lance Longenbohn, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1001, told Denver7 about the area in early December. "It’s not safe for the public. It’s not safe for the employees. It’s getting worse."

He said he had been fielding complaints from RTD drivers and was concerned about their safety. A memo sent to all employees on Nov. 29 detailed how, as part of those efforts, RTD would partner with the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration to deploy special teams in the area of Union Station until the end of 2021. The teams were made up of three to seven members, plus a transit police officer who patrolled with them.

In December, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he had heard from passengers and residents around Union Station about their public safety concerns. In response, he directed Denver's public safety director and his chief of staff to meet with RTD management to assess the conditions and report back to him. He added that DPD would increase its presence around Union Station too.

Several weeks later, on Feb. 3, Hancock and other Denver leaders introduced plans to reduce crime in the city, including around Union Station. During that press conference, Pazen said the approach at Union Station will be collaborative with RTD partners and case managers and substance use navigators. But the type of illegal behavior there also means enforcement needs to step up too, he said.

"Through the efforts of our women and men who wear this uniform, in the last three months, we've increased our focus on this illegal behavior," he said. "More than 522 individuals have been held accountable for their actions."

About a week after this press conference, using hidden cameras, Denver7 found multiple examples of individuals smoking fentanyl in and around Union Station.