Back To The Wild West: What Senate Bill 21-271 Means To The Safety Of Denver Citizens – Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle
by Mar 18, 2022 | Main Articles
“Well, if there ain’t gonna be any rules, let’s get the fight started.”
by Luke Schmaltz
Terry Hildebrandt, PhD, is at war. The Denver district where he lives — the Golden Triangle — is anything but a gilded community of urban bliss. On any given day, he encounters the detritus of illegal campers which can include feces, trash, burned up tents, used needles, and more. At all hours of the day and night, Hildebrandt contends with fighting between encampment tenants, incessant screaming, blocked sidewalks, theft of businesses and residences, sexual abuse, and physical altercations which threaten his safety, that of his neighbors, and just about anyone else who enters the area.
Two Steps Back
The alley behind Hildebrandt’s office has been dubbed “Heroin Alley.”
The latest installment of feckless legislation poised to exacerbate spiraling crime was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis in early July 2021, and enacted on March 1, 2022. For Terry Hildebrandt, the most concerning features of Senate Bill 271, the Misdemeanor Reform Bill, “is that the law now allows certain felons to possess guns, making it harder for police to remove guns off the streets, due to a change to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 346: 18-12-108 regarding possession of weapons by previous offenders,” he explains.
“Previously, all convicted felons were prohibited to buy or possess firearms. Now, many felons will be allowed to possess firearms, unless they were convicted of Victims’ Rights Act offenses, such as murder, child abuse, and sex assault. For example, this means all previous offenders convicted of felonies that were related to drugs, burglary, arson, and many other reasons will now be allowed to possess guns. Both 18th Judicial District Attorney John Kellner and Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen have publicly expressed serious concerns about SB21-271 and the likely impact it will have on crime rates in Colorado due to more felons being allowed to possess guns.”
The New Skid Row
Meanwhile, Hildebrandt is fighting for the sanctity of the downtown Denver community at large and for the dignity of those who choose to call the Golden Triangle home. Decriminalization of drug trafficking, possession of illegal drugs, and use of illicit substances, along with the neutralized authority of a Denver Police Department, has turned his district into an urban hellhole. “During the summer of 2021,” he begins, “I had to call 911 to report a man passed out in the alley right by 10th Ave, laying in the way of traffic on the hot concrete. The man could have been run over by a car since that is a busy alley. The Fire Department arrived quickly to check on him. It was around 95 [degrees] that day, so heat stroke was a real possibility,” he says.
Hildebrandt continues, “In 2021, we had a lot of heroin and meth open use in the alley right outside my home and business, which I renamed to Heroin Alley. I have dozens of photos of addicts with heroin needles in their arms and toes and smoking meth and fentanyl. We regularly found used needles all over in the Golden Triangle neighborhood. I was calling 911 up to five times a day to report open drug use and other health crises in my neighborhood. In 2021, I joined forces with a nonpartisan, diverse group of like-minded people, to cofound the nonprofit, Citizens for a Safe and Clean Denver,” he explains.
Hildebrandt is quick to point out he is not simply condemning the dangerous conditions in his community. He is instead, pointing to contributing factors, such as how many of his property-owning peers choose to simply look the other way rather than insist upon the city doing better. The current policy is for authorities to offer treatment services and shelter to the unhoused living in tents (which is almost universally declined) rather than insist on it — especially for people suffering from addiction and/or severe mental illness. “I see no excuse left to ever tolerate allowing anyone to rot on the street in an illegal tent to overdose and freeze to death,” he says. “How is there any dignity for the unsheltered in allowing dangerous, illegal enc
The Golden Triangle district in downtown Denver is dangerous to all residents, housed and unhoused.
ampments to remain?”
“The sad part is that Denver can find shelter for everyone on the street,” Hildebrandt says. “Skye Stuart (Legislative Director & Sr. Advisor for Policy & Legislation, Mayor’s Office) at Public Hearing: CB 21-0592, said, ‘I do want to be clear that we do have hundreds of beds available every night. If every person off the street wanted to come in, would we need to do some things — like open some rec centers — absolutely, but we do have some flexibility in our system that will accommodate for that.’”
Passing The Buck
Meanwhile, people who are arrested for offenses such as drug dealing, burglary, trespassing, automobile theft, sexual assault, harassment, and other crimes are being inexplicably released by the courts on PR (personal recognizance) bonds in a matter of just a few hours after being detained. Hildebrandt has voiced his concerns to top officials, stating, “We met with District Attorney Beth McCann, and she blamed the judges for releasing accused criminals on PR bonds. McCann took no responsibility for the dramatic increase in accused dangerous criminals being released on PR bonds while awaiting trial, saying that the judges set bail — not the DA,” he says.
Hildebrandt continues, “McCann also told us that she has no data readily available to us to understand which judges are to blame for this mess. I am deeply frustrated and disappointed in the lack of accountability in the judiciary. The public has no easy way to hold judges accountable for releasing dangerous, violent criminals, and drug dealers to re-offend. Tony Kovaleski at Denver7 reported that data from open records laws from the courts show 1,298 arrests for felony drug offenses. The data also show that 69% of all accused individuals arrested for those drug offenses were granted PR bonds and show that 45% of individuals arrested for felony drug offenses and granted a PR bond failed to appear for at least one court hearing,” he explains.
To say these circumstances are discouraging to law enforcement officials with “boots on the ground” would be an understatement. “I have personally witnessed the negative impact on the
Dr. Terry Hildebrandt, PhD. lives and works in the Golden Triangle district which has become an urban hellhole.
morale of our police force when accused, violent criminals and drug dealers are released after the police risked their lives to arrest dangerous criminals,” Hildebrandt says. “I have also seen the frustration and fear of victims, who are subject to the same perpetrators over and over when these criminals are back in the community where they can re-offend.”
A Glimmer Of Hope
Despite the host of setbacks in his front yard, Terry Hildebrandt is focused on solutions. He is quick to point out that legislation which is counteractive to SB 21-271 has been introduced. “HB 22-1257 just passed the house,” he says. “It will help fix some of the issues if it passes in the Senate. [It] would add certain felony offenses, such as criminal extortion, enticement of a child, unlawful termination of pregnancy, and arson, back onto the ‘possession of a weapon by a previous offender’ (POWPO) list. However, it does not fix the issue of felons with drug convictions being allowed to possess guns,” he explains.
Some citizens are fed up, mistrustful of the legal system, and doubtful that law enforcement will come to their aid should they be accosted, assaulted, attacked, robbed, or worse. What then, you might ask, can you do to bolster your personal safety?
There are numerous Denver enterprises in the business of teaching people to protect themselves from violent criminals. This is not a new idea, rather, it has been a celebrated aspect of daily life in the Mountain West region since before the Mile High City was founded back in 1876. For a fair price, any able-bodied adult or minor with parental consent can learn to safely and proficiently operate, carry (18+ only), and maintain a firearm intended for self-protection. Places such as Lipstick Tactical (emphasizing women’s safety), BluCore Shooting Center, and Final Protective Line Academy are centers of education, awareness, and training for law-abiding citizens concerned with their personal safety. These and other similar enterprises are ideal places for garnering the proper training, knowledge, and testing required for obtaining a conceal and carry license.
If firearms are not your cup of tea but personal safety is, Denver offers a wealth of destinations for self-defense training in hand-to-hand combat styles such as Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu, Kung Fu, and many, many more. Folks too busy to take on a new discipline are wise, at the very least, to invest in practical means of deterring assailants such as pepper spray, bear spray, mace, or some similar, user-friendly device. If the government will not exact punishment against those who aim to harm law-abiding citizens — then the populace at large must assume sole responsibility for their own wellbeing. As for those who choose to harm themselves on the taxpayers’ dime — that mess, for now, is still your problem.
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