Denver Anti-Crime Walk Leads to Arrest for Menacing, Drug Distribution | Westword

Westword Walk-Along With DPD Quickly Leads to Arrest for Felony Menacing, Drug Distribution

What was supposed to be a day of community outreach and holistic anti-crime work turned into an episode of Cops.
Shots from Westword's April 12 walk-along with the Denver Police Department.
Shots from Westword's April 12 walk-along with the Denver Police Department. Chris Perez
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Anti-crime and holistic community outreach walks may sound good on paper, but people often question their results.

To put that approach to the test, Westword joined a foot patrol with the Denver Police Department and Denver Dream Center, a faith-based nonprofit, on Friday, April 12, in crime-ridden locations around Capitol Hill. Leading the patrol were DPD community resource officers Kayla Knabe and Glenn Main, from District 6, and Dream Center leaders Mike Johnson and Chas Richardson, who gave us a firsthand look at what the patrols and spending a few hours in a high-crime area are like.

What ended up happening that day serves as proof that anti-crime walks not only work, but are needed in these persistently violent areas, according to Main and Knabe.

"You all saved me," said Vickie Rice, a 65-year-old felony menacing victim that Knabe, Main and the rest of the group stumbled upon just before noon while doing outreach work in the 500 block of East Colfax Avenue.

A man later identified by the DPD as Khalid Jones, 53, had been threatening Rice with a box cutter after she allegedly told him to scram from the parking lot behind the building she manages at 1476 Pearl Street, the department reports.

Jones and Rice were in a parking space between two cars when the DPD patrol group and Westword came around a corner from the alley and spotted them.

"He's got a knife! He just pulled a knife on us!" Rice shouted, prompting Jones to walk away from her slowly at first — his back turned toward the patrol group — before darting off from Knabe and Main down Pearl Street and toward 14th Avenue after the group tried speaking with him.

Jones was apprehended moments later in an alley behind the Pearl Place apartments at 1377 Pearl Street. Asked by Westword why he allegedly pulled a box cutter on Rice, which was originally thought to be a knife, Jones said, "I didn't pull no motherfucking knife." Main said he recovered the box cutter after seeing Jones try to ditch it during his attempted escape.

While searching Jones, cops allegedly found four grams of what was suspected to be fentanyl, leading to a charge of distribution of a Schedule I or II substance. His alleged box cutter incident with Rice led to the felony menacing charge, which could land him behind bars for up to three years.

"This guy could've stabbed me and not thought twice about it," Rice said. "Just because he was asked to move — and asked to move nicely."
click to enlarge A small bag of drugs being held by a Denver police oficder.
A small baggie with drugs was found in the same exact parking lot where Vickie Rice was menaced.
Chris Perez
Multiple residents who live in Rice's building told Westword that the parking lot behind the property has become a haven for drug users and homeless people. One person said people have tried to steal his Kia on four separate occasions.

"Every night there's twenty people or more, in between the cars, around the block, along the fences — sleeping, smoking crack and often fighting — and you can't get them to move," Rice said. "They tell you, 'We don't have to do anything. There's nothing you can do.' And they're pretty much right, to a certain extent."

The new DPD patrols, which are scheduled for Mondays and Fridays during the day, are an attempted solution to an ongoing crime and drug situation on Ogden Street between 14th and Colfax avenues, as well as other areas in District 6. The patrols are taking place near Colfax and Broadway, the 500 block of East Colfax and the 1400 block of Ogden.

Westword detailed the area's situation in a February 1 article, with staff and owners of businesses in the Ogden area — such as the Corner Beet, Balanced Root Apothecary, Rooted Heart Yoga and Wellness, and Glam House — describing how they've struggled to make patrons and workers feel safe.

Between September 2023 and February 2024, more than 110 criminal offenses were reported in the 1400 block of Ogden, according to the DPD crime map. There were multiple reports of assaults, robberies, auto theft, disorderly conduct, and public drug or alcohol use at all hours.

Over twenty more crimes have been reported in this area as of late March, according to the DPD, with a 142 percent increase in drug offenses year over year. Police made 74 arrests in the area during that time span, a 31.3 percent increase over the same period in 2023. DPD officials report that 80 percent of the arrests so far this year have been drug- or alcohol-related.

During the walk-along last Friday, the patrol group — which also included two staff members from the Other Side Academy rehabilitation and social treatment school — stumbled upon what was suspected to be a bag of drugs in the same parking lot where Rice was allegedly menaced, just twenty minutes before the incident occurred.

"We'll take it in and put it in for destruction," Main explained.

While outreach work and a holistic approach are fueling these new DPD and Dream Center patrols, it's drug discoveries like this — near one of the most popular McDonald's locations on Colfax — and the Jones arrest that ultimately show what's most important here: keeping people safe by being close.

"It shows that foot patrols around this area are needed," Main said, noting how police response times play a huge role in lives being saved and justice being carried out.

"When we're out here, when the high-level stuff happens, we can respond fast. Like this right here: It could have easily turned into a stabbing or something like that if we weren't here right away. So it's good we were able to respond quickly. Because if they had to call 911, it would've taken a little bit longer."

"We knew the chances of something falling into our lap were pretty high, but we weren't expecting to come around the corner and see a felony menacing happening," Knabe explained.

While the menacing and drug bust may have stolen the show, there was plenty to be proud of in the outreach department.

Right before the arrest, the group was speaking with a woman who was holed up in the alley between 1476 Pearl and the parking lot in violation of the city's camping ban. She was asked to leave and given information about homeless services in Denver.

Westword observed several people taking food and information about human services, and having positive interactions with the Dream Center and Other Side Academy leaders. One woman, who didn't communicate or want to speak at first, was quick to open up after being offered a hug and kind words from Johnson.

"I just asked her her name, told her about the Dream Center, told her where to go and how we could get her some shoes and get her some help," he recalled. "She wouldn't say anything, but at the end right before we left, I asked if I could give her a hug, and she gave me a big, huge hug. I asked if I could pray for her, and she said yeah. I asked if she believed in Jesus and believed in God, and she said yeah. So I just prayed with her and gave her a hug."
click to enlarge A group photo with members of Denver Police Department, Denver Dream Center and Other Side Academy.
The patrol group that Westword tailed for the April 12 walk-along included members of the Denver Dream Center and Other Side Academy.
Chris Perez
For Johnson and Richardson, being part of the Dream Center and new foot patrols is about showing people that they can do anything with the right type of support. Both have criminal pasts and have spent time on the street, and they use those experiences to help relate with the people they're helping.

"We've been there, we know it, we understand it, we lived it," Johnson said.

"I look at my failures as a success story for others," Richardson added.

Almost everyone who came in contact with the DPD patrol group last Friday laughed or smiled while conversing with Johnson and Richardson. Knabe and Main handled the more difficult conversations and situations, like the woman who was camping and the menacing incident.

"It's the nuance that makes it work," said resident Rachel Goodman, who lives in Rice's building. "This is all grayscale. You have to have that balance and understand how it really works. There needs to be more of this."

Describing her thoughts on the new patrols, Rice said, "I'm just so, so thankful. It makes me feel safer."

Since the funding for the DPD patrols is paid as overtime and considered Congressional Direct Spending by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, there's only so much that can be doled out by the department to keep them going. The total grant award for the project was $122,000, according to the DPD, with $18,320 contracted to the Dream Center and $103,680 set aside for officer overtime for DPD District 6 and DPD District 2. The patrols, which last eight hours a day, are expected to run until mid-August.

"For the grant, specifically, we only have a certain amount of money that's been allotted," Knabe explained to Westword after a town hall last month on the Ogden crime situation. "We have been in talks with Colfax [Business Improvement District] on trying to figure out how to increase security in the area."

It'll be hard to top the April 12 walk-along, but Knabe and Main are ready to do so should the opportunity arise.

"These foot patrols are really so valuable," Knabe said. "It's a great feeling when we're able to catch criminals and people perpetrating crime against innocent neighbors and residents. Not only are we out there helping to connect people, we're helping to protect them, as well."

Concluded Main, "That's what makes it so good. We're making lots of contacts, and we greatly impacted somebody's life that was a victim of a crime. That's huge."
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