Denver business owners have spent millions on private security groups to keep their properties safe as crime and theft by the homeless run rampant in the Democrat-run city.
Though the city has banned street camping and has poured $250 million into reducing homelessness, many business owners feel those restrictions are loosely enforced and the spending does nothing to keep their properties safe.
Walter Isenberg, whose Sage Hospitality Group manages a number of prominent downtown Denver developments, told the Denver Post that he spends $3 million a year on armed security to protect his property. Ten years ago, his security budget was $250,000.
Company owner Chris Waggett manages 70 acres of properties near Denver and said he has lost numerous tenants because employees don’t come to work due to fears for their safety from crime. He spends $500,000 on security at a Denver Union Station property.
Denver is just the latest city to be plagued by crime and theft. Business owners have fled Portland, Oregon, as crime has soared and downtown San Francisco has been abandoned by workers fearing for their safety.
A camp of homeless people set up on a Denver street. The city has done little to combat the problem
Homeless people camped on a sidewalk in Denver. The city has a $250 million budget to fight homelessness, but many residents feel it’s not being used well
According to the Denver Post, crime in Denver has skyrocketed over the past two years, with car burglaries doubling between 2020 and 2022, car thefts tripling, a 30 percent increase in assaults, and a rise in homicide and assault. arson.
Homelessness has also skyrocketed, with the city spending its budget buying hotels to house the homeless, while camps are popping up on the city’s sidewalks in defiance of the laws.
Waggett said when the city breaks camp, it just shifts the problem to another place.
“The big problem I have is that when we sweep downtown or push at Union Station, people just push through the light rail corridors,” he told the Denver Post. “All we do is play Whack-A-Mole.”
He said he has lost at least three tenants directly to vagrancy and local crime, and regularly sees open drug use, prostitution and feces in the downtown area. He added that his own security guards are sometimes unwilling to take on drug dealers who operate near his properties.
“We’ve had a very laissez-faire, permissive attitude and people don’t understand the economic impact on the city,” he said. “We need leadership with a capital L: we need leadership not just in enforcing the law and addressing the triple problem of homelessness, drug abuse and mental health.”
Isenberg complained that the city was not using its resources to cater for business owners, and that private security was costing him a lot of money because he can only pass on a limited amount of expenses to his tenants.
“The tenants can only take so much rent,” he said. “We pay a lot of taxes and get no services.”
Walter Isenberg (left) spends $3 million a year on private security. Chris Waggett (right) spends $500,000 on just one of his properties
A homeless person was sprawled on a Denver street. Police have done little to remove camps
A homeless camp on a Denver street in December 2022
Construction companies have employed security groups at night to prevent homeless people from breaking into construction sites and destroying property or injuring themselves in the dangerous conditions, and banks have had to stop homeless people from using drugs in their bathrooms.
Mall owner Jamie Harris said his tenants call him at least three times a week to complain about crime and homelessness.
“In some centers it leads to theft,” he said. ‘Other times it’s just a nuisance with garbage and drug stuff, or people sleeping on the sidewalk. It’s unbelievable.’
“Our tenants are so frustrated,” he said, recalling an incident where a man broke in and lived in a closet of a property. Harris told the Denver Post the man was found after he started grilling food inside and maintenance workers noticed the smoke.
Harris spends $160,000 on his private security and passes the price on to the tenants. He gives them the option not to use it, but he said they all choose to keep it.
“If I ever ask if they want it gone, they say no. They are willing to pay to keep the property cleaner and less vagrants,” he said.
Fearing that the police cannot do anything about the problem, Harris himself guards property with a can of bear spray.
“The police can’t really do anything but push people off my property and make them leave,” he said.
“For a while I really tried to make conversation and say, ‘hey, this is private property you need to move’, but the friendly approach didn’t work.” It doesn’t work… Many of these people are very, very restless, addicted to drugs or mentally ill.’
“If you look at San Francisco or Portland, the method of being nice and trying to be helpful doesn’t work.”
A homeless person sleeps on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk in downtown Denver
A group of homeless people camped on a sidewalk in downtown Denver
Public records from Portland showed that since the pandemic, more than 2,600 downtown businesses have submitted address changes to the U.S. Postal Service to leave their downtown zip codes.
Several major employers, such as Umpqua Bank, have been among the mass exodus, led by owners who have objected to rising crime rates and homelessness – and the city’s failure to address it.
Once hailed as the ‘Crown Jewel of the West Coast’ for its trendy arts and food scenes, The City of Roses has been in jeopardy since 2020, largely due to attempts to defund the police and lax bail reform laws that leave little to no deterrent to increasingly brutal criminals.
And in San Francisco, homelessness has been at a nearly 20-year high, and local businesses have threatened to stop paying taxes unless the city cleans up the colonies of tents and tarps that have grown along neighborhood streets.
Major crimes in San Francisco are up 7.4 percent so far last year from the same period in 2021, with assault up 11.1 percent and robberies up 5.2 percent.
A recent poll found that a majority of San Franciscans believe their city is going downhill, with a third planning to leave within three years.
Some residents blame Mayor Breed, whose previous popularity for guiding the city through the pandemic appears to have waned amid rising crime, the fentanyl epidemic and other woes.
One specific harm reduction policy that failed was last year’s opening of the Tenderloin Center, which was intended to alleviate the city’s drug and homelessness crisis.
It cost the taxpayer a staggering $22 million and was supposed to be a “safe place” for addicts to “get high without getting robbed” and without fear of fatal overdosing.