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Commons Park assaults prompt city to improve lighting in the area

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After reports of increased crime in Commons Park, the Denver City Council and Denver Department of Parks and Recreation are funneling money into this popular neighborhood northwest of starting with $150,000 for lighting improvements to "address critical safety needs in Commons Park."

That's how the cost was described on council's agenda two weeks ago, when it approved the funding for a lighting improvement project at the increasingly popular park in the Central Platte Valley, which is located between Lower Highland and LoDo. The parks department will use the money to look for a longterm solution that will increase visibility in parts of Commons Park, says Mark Bernstein, a downtown area planner with the department.

The city has already installed four LED light structures on the bridge in Commons Park that goes over the Platte River. "This was a quick fix," says Bernstein. "We had the need to address this immediately."

According to City Councilwoman Judy Montero's office, the parks department should have a lighting design by this fall and could complete installation by the end of the year.

Detective John White, a DPD spokesman, doesn't offer specific details of the alleged incidents, explaining that at a "community meeting" several months ago, residents expressed concerns that the park was dark at night. The DPD is now working with the parks department to improve conditions at Commons Park.

Page down to read about recent assaults in the area and how Commons Park has changed over time.

After going through recent DPD records for the area, Westword found some assaults on record around Commons Park, though it's difficult to determine how these cases might relate to the push for better lighting. Using DPD's crime mapping tool, breaking down the search specifically to offenses at Commons Park, we found three cases of "aggravated assault" since January -- one in March, one in April and one in June. These took place, according to the records, at 2205 19th Street, 2300 Platte Street and 1610 Little Raven Street, respectively.

Nathan Batchelder, a policy aide for Montero, says that ever since the Highland Pedestrian Bridge was completed several years ago, the area in and around Commons Park, Riverfront and Lower Highland have become increasingly pedestrian-oriented, with more folks walking and cycling to and from downtown and Highland. Commons Park has also become a popular recreational destination for residents exploring the South Platte River.

The increased activity at Commons Park prompted Montero to look into new lighting infrastructure installations, Batchelder says in an e-mail, to "provide a better sense of safety and security as more people use Commons Park for recreation and as a key bike/ped connection in the Central Platte Valley.... These improvements will help illuminate more eyes on the park."

"With all the development over the last ten years...that obviously became a major connection," Bernstein added. "We never anticipated the amount of use that walk would get."

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Waldo Canyon fire: At least 22 burglaries, 16 car break-ins of victims at hotels"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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