In the 1400 block of Market Street, bars announce last call around 1:30 a.m. After patrons finish their final drinks at such popular nightspots as Dorchester Social, Gaslamp and Lit Nightclub, they begin filtering into the street, still figuring out where to go for an after-party. In the resulting crowds, sometimes violence breaks out. But early on Saturday, October 20, everyone made it out of the bars and into their Ubers without major incident.
A heavy police presence might have had something to do with that.
Although LoDo has seen plenty of trouble at let-out over the years, this particular block was the site of two shootings in September, which left four wounded and one dead: a security guard. Both incidents came just around closing time, which led the Denver Police Department to ramp up its oversight of the block on weekend nights.
Jasmine Hunter, who was outside Gaslamp early on October 20, hadn't been partying on the 1400 block of Market during either of the shootings, but she heard plenty about them. "Yes, it’s scary, but shit happens," she says. "People act stupid. Just because somebody had beef with somebody else shouldn’t ruin everybody else’s fun."
To keep that fun safe, the DPD has implemented three new security measures: Lights illuminate the intersections at both ends of the 1400 block of Market during weekend party hours; all meters are bagged to prevent parking those nights; and police are spread out along the block, increasing their visible presence, according to Ron Thomas, division chief of patrol.
The bagged meters keep the curbside lanes open for Ubers, taxis and other vehicles coming to pick up patrons, reducing the likelihood that crowds will spill into the streets and an errant horn honk will set someone off. That's what led to a Halloween night shooting at 19th and Market streets in 2007, resulting in a young woman becoming paralyzed. That area remains a point of concern for the DPD's district 6, along with the 1400 block of Market and the 1000 block of Broadway, where police presence has also been beefed up.
The DPD says it's trying to balance the safety measures with potential inconveniences to businesses along the block. For example, the bags cover the meters from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. only on weekends. "We're trying to be careful about how long we deny parking access," says Thomas.
Police officers on duty along Market Street are also vigilant about allowing drivers to stop for too long. At around 1 a.m. on October 20, an Uber driver gets an earful from an officer for not moving, then speeds off. "We’ve got a ticket for you, man," the officer says as the car races away.
And Uber drivers aren't the only ones who feel the heavy police presence. "Look at all the cops. It's safer here than any other club," says Rasikh Monim, gesturing to Dorchester, a bar that he thinks plays the best hip-hop music in Denver.
Monim was partying here the last weekend of September; he left just before the shooting.
On this October night, Monim is one of hundreds who leave the block's bars after last call. As 2 a.m. nears, the crowds on the sidewalks grow. A group of scantily-clad women gathers for an impromptu photo shoot in front of a parking garage. Plenty of guys linger, their eyes locked on the women, who're posing like they're creating the cover of the next Destiny's Child album.
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A black Audi pulls up, blaring hip-hop music. A man climbs out of the passenger side and perches on the roof, talking with people in the crowd. The after-party is already starting. "Let-out time! Shit be wild in the street!" says one man as he walks away from Dorchester.
One clearly intoxicated woman comes up to an empty cop car and asks, "Who the fuck is driving this thing?" Told that the driver is a cop, she follows up: "Well, then, where the hell is he?" Apparently, she's trying to get a free ride home.
Two people in an Escalade start arguing, with the verbal sparring eventually leading to the woman socking the man square in the jaw. Police, who are only feet away, shine their lights on the car and question the couple. The woman begins sobbing. She winds up getting arrested for an outstanding warrant and for providing false information to police.
By 2:15 a.m., the street is almost clear. All that's left are the cops, a few bar employees closing up shop, and the sounds of a wailing woman.