Colorado Springs Police seeing uptick in violent crime among those experiencing homelessness

Posted at 1:47 AM, Jun 12, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) said officers are seeing an uptick in violent crime among those experiencing homelessness in the city.

"We've seen it. A lot of violence out here. And the folks out here know it as well, so they're feeling the brunt of a lot of the shootings and or the shots fired, stabbings that are happening in the area," said Sergeant Olav Chaney with CSPD's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT).

The HOT team is responsible for enforcing the law, especially city camping ordinances and trespassing violations, and helping those experiencing homelessness get connected to resources. Sgt. Chaney said the team cleared more than 2,000 misdemeanor warrants and around 300 felony warrants within the homeless community last year.

He said the increase in violent crime among the homeless community is seen in "hot spots," including near Dorchester Park on the south end of the city. Sgt. Chaney said there have been five homicides and 17 assault cases in that area since 2023.

"Because of that we take things a lot more serious in this area. We're more careful," he said. "I do believe drugs is a big player in a lot of the violence that happens down in this area. And then you got some different people kind of butting heads over whose turf it is."

He said gun violence is also becoming a bigger problem. The HOT Team took eight firearms away from those experiencing homelessness in 2023 and has already reached that number so far this year, according to CSPD.

"You feel it, you see it, people are telling us that, 'Hey, guns are coming in the neighborhood,'" said Sgt. Chaney. "We enforce the laws that are in the books. We have to. If we don't then it would be a lot worse."

Robert Russell said he's homeless and has been living in camps along the south side of the city near Fountain Creek for two years. He said the increase in violent crime is noticeable.

“I've seen murder. I've seen robbery. I see violence, you know. People get stuck down here they lose their possessions and other people steal or whatever and they do what they do to protect theyselves," Russell said.

Sgt. Chaney said substance abuse often goes hand in hand with mental health issues for those experiencing homelessness in camps across the city. He said during their daily operations, the HOT Team helps transport anyone willing to go to a shelter or a rehabilitation center.

"I would rather do that than have to take people to jail every single day," said Sgt. Chaney.

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