Police report 'disturbing' early-season influx of transients lured by state's legalized marijuanaNo one's done a statistical analysis as yet, but Colorado Springs police are concerned that the region might be getting more than the usual number of visiting transients/panhandlers this spring. "They're starting early this year," said Gold Hill Station Commander Pat Rigdon at the March meeting of the Westside's Avenue Task Force (ATF)
The reason? “They're here because of legalized marijuana,” he said. That's been the “overwhelming response” when police have talked with problem newcomers about what brought them here; as for the overall numbers, “we're seeing an influx,” Rigdon said. "They're starting early this year. That's disturbing."
Marijuana was legalized in the state election of 2012, with pot stores opening in some places this past winter (although Manitou is the only entity in the metro area where a local government allows such sales and its stores haven't opened yet).
Regarding overall crime issues, McCormack and Police Sgt. Mike Spitzmiller urged citizens at the Avenue Merchants meeting to report crimes or suspicious activities as soon as they see them.
The HOT team is assigned to work with people who are found to have no place to live. Some are ordinary people who've had bad luck or hit hard financial times; others are chronic homeless, often with mental and/or substance abuse issues, McCormack explained. While some people may wonder why legal action sometimes doesn't happen faster with transients who appear to be scofflaws, he pointed out that “there are lawyers who make money” by suing cities that can't show they've “reached out” to their homeless population.
Old Colorado City business owner Dave Brackett commented that he's seen one panhandler -- "a lady, a homeless, pregnant veteran for four years. When's that baby due, girl?"
Formed over the last few years, the ATF and Avenue Merchants have advocated successfully for greater police presence along Colorado Avenue, from both CSPD and El Paso County. Although police have said the volume of crime is not as high on the Westside as in some other parts of the city, there is a concern about undesirables dragging down neighborhoods and commercial areas. “It's quality of life issues that are putting us over here,” McCormack said.
Westside Pioneer article