Is Denver Mayor Michael Hancock trying to downplay violent incidents on the 16th Street Mall?
That's the implication of a new report from Fox31, which quotes Hancock spokeswoman Amber Miller as turning down the station's request for a sit-down interview with the mayor because the outlet is simply trying to "keep the story going."
Like that's a bad thing. In recent weeks, we've expressed surprise that more news agencies haven't covered troubling incidents on or near the mall, including a couple beaten by teens after a complaint about littering and a stabbing just days ago.
In contrast, pretty much every journalism outlet in town is covering the latest example of 16th Street Mall crime, perhaps because it's so shocking: Jerry Odell, described as a possible transient, is under arrest after alleged sexual assaults on four women within blocks and minutes of each other.
Denver police say the spree got started at around 7:35 a.m. Monday, August 31, near 1500 Stout Street. Odell allegedly told a woman, "You're so pretty," then demanded that she "give him a little something" before grabbing her in the area of her breasts and fleeing.
A short distance away, Odell is accused of grabbing the arm of another woman. After she broke free, she sought help from RTD security.
Victim number three was accosted in the lobby of the Rio Grande Lofts, at 1531 Stout, an area captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."
The woman at the Rio Grande said Odell swept her into a bear hug and started licking her face.
Her initial attempts to get away from him were unsuccessful.
In addition, she went on, he threw her phone to the floor and groped her breasts and below her waist.
He only stopped his attack after her screaming alerted someone else in the building to her peril, she added.
Still, the DPD says Odell wasn't finished.
The fourth victim was abused on the 1500 block of Champa Street; Odell allegedly held her to him, reached under her skirt and began "ramming her with his pelvis."
Before any more attacks could take place, cops finally located Odell and took him into custody. At last report, he was behind bars.
After spokeswoman Miller turned down Fox31's request for an in-person conversation with Hancock, his office sent an e-mail insisting that the mayor is closely following reports about 16th Street Mall crime, and the Denver police are said to have increased the frequency of patrols — a good idea given the fourteen-minute delay in responding to 911 calls about the litter-related beating this past month.
These are positive developments. But rather than trying to duck the issue for fear it could hurt tourism, Hancock should get even more serious about insuring that the 16th Street Mall is safe for visitors and locals alike.
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Here's a look at Odell's booking photo, followed by Fox31's latest piece.