CSPD, Sheriff’s Office putting resources into No Man’s Land

       Upbeat reports from the Colorado Springs Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office highlighted the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) annual Town Hall Jan. 31.

Al Harmon of the County Sheriff's Office at the OWN Town Hall Jan. 31.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Both Pat Rigdon, commander of CSPD's Gold Hill Division; and Al Harmon, law enforcement bureau chief for the Sheriff's Office, described enhancements that will include greater focus on the “No Man's Land” segment of West Colorado Avenue, which has been plagued in recent years by panhandlers, thievery, drug-dealing and even prostitution. Rigdon described efforts to focus on motels in that area that have housed problem individuals, a strategy to assign the department's Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to the Westside at least once a week and a city-wide plan to add community service officers and thus allow more “face-to-face” opportunities with citizens.
       Harmon, with inputs from Patrol Division Commander Rob King, spoke enthusiastically about service improvements the Sheriff's Office has been able to make since approval of the .23-percent sales tax for county law enforcement that voters approved in November. With more deputies being added, the Westside - and particularly No Man's Land - “will have somebody over there all the time,” Harmon said. “I think you're going to notice a difference.”
       According to statistics he displayed, deputies have already made more than half as many citizen contacts (53) in the month of January in the avenue area between 31st Street and Ridge Road as they had in all of 2012.
       The meeting, attended by close to 50 people, also saw the election by acclamation of five OWN board members - three who were already seated and two new.
       By a show of hands, attendees also encouraged OWN board member Brad Collins in his proposal that the nonprofit neighborhood advocacy group hold a forum for District 1 and 3 City Council candidates, probably in early March.
       Another presentation was given by Steve Murray, head of the Westside Avenue Action Plan team that's studying potential capital improvements to the No Man's Land segment. He reiterated the results of a January public meeting which resulted in a decision to reduce traffic there from two lanes each way to one plus a center turn lane. Another action-plan public meeting will be in February or March, he said, adding that construction with Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) funds could start in 2015.
       The new OWN board members are Mike Welsh and Joe Collins. Re-elected were Chad White, Terry Brunette and Mary Gallivan. There are nine members in all on the OWN board.
       Mike Welsh is retired military. He worked in electronics maintenance and test equipment at Fort Carson and later for the Department of Defense in quality assurance on buying and maintaining weapons systems, which led to a tour in Afghanistan in 2005. He and Betty, his wife of 47 years, had previously lived in Holland Park (raising three children there) and have been working on their house on West Boulder Street for about three years. Welsh said he had noticed that his part of the Westside (Area 2 in the OWN district set-up) lacked board representation so he offered to be a “point of contact if something needed doing.”
       Joe Collins has lived on the Westside since 1994. A union electrician with IBEW Local 113, he recently co-started an online labor advocacy newspaper. He and his wife Victoria have two boys, one of whom is attending West Middle School. “As an OWN board member, I hope to become a better, more informed member of my most local community - and more of an active participant in it,” Collins said.
       Also in attendance at the meeting were City Transportation Manager Kathleen Krager and two candidates for the District 3 City Council seat whose area includes the older Westside (Jim Bensberg and Brandy Williams).

Westside Pioneer article