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Electric outlets become amenity for vagrants in Bancroft Park’s pavilion

       Electric outlets on the Bancroft Park stage and under its pavilion were installed years ago to support community events.
       Little did anyone know that in the year 2015 those outlets would be convenient resources for vagrants hanging out in the park or even spending the night there.
       This revelation was among several Bancroft-related law enforcement points that Colorado Springs Police Department Lieutenant Jeff Jensen shared in recent e-mail exchanges with several Westside community members, some of whom work with police through the neighborhood-crime-focused Avenue Task Force.
       Among those regularly affected by vagrancy are the Pikes Peak Farmers Market, which sets up in the park on summer Saturdays, and the Old Colorado City History Center across the street.
       According to spokespersons for both entities, the market has had to call police about suspected thefts from food tables, and the History Center's volunteers are having to repeatedly clean up the unfenced yard just east of their building because it's being used as a late-night restroom.
       This comes after the summer of 2014, when an identical problem forced the center to replace its then-low-walled access ramp, because of the way it offered vagrants a hiding place. “I don't know what we can do to stop them,” said Leo Knudson, one of the center's volunteers, speaking to this year's problem, “other than spend money we don't have to build a fence.”
       Avenue Task Force members have become increasingly worried about connections between incidents like these and the groups of people - typically young men with backpacks and other personal effects - that have been fixtures in the park this summer. In varying numbers, they have tended to congregate at the 1.16-acre site through the daytime and evenings.
       Jensen, who has a supervisory role in Westside police coverage through the Gold Hill Division, observed that if the law is being obeyed, people who may look unsavory are as “entitled to use the park and gazebo as anyone else.” However, it is also true, he noted, that “criminal issues” have been observed and enforced, including drinking, drug use, drug-dealing and violation of park hours (5 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the warmer months).
       Overnight camping (prohibited by city law in public places) does not happen there as often as it might seem. “We are finding that folks are staying in wooded areas near the park and then converging on the park during the day,” Jensen said. “However, we have made several arrests for those sleeping in the park itself too.”
       Regarding the electrical outlets, “we had discovered that some individuals were sleeping in the park and plugging their electronic items into the light poles that used to have active electrical outlets,” he explained. “We worked with the Parks Department and had those outlets turned off. Unfortunately, the outlets that are in the pavilion itself as well as the stage cannot be turned off because the electrical system is directly tied to the overhead lighting in both places.
       “We felt that we are better off leaving those outlets active so we can have the overhead lighting on every night and see if anyone is camping. This does, though, make the park a more convenient place for some to try to sleep, having electrical power available.”
       Police attention on Bancroft is part of its Westside coverage involving three teams each day of the week.
       “During the latter part of June, Bancroft Park became one of the Gold Hill Patrol Division's current focus areas for proactive enforcement due to complaints we were receiving regarding the park and around the library directly to the north,” Jensen said. “We have been using foot, vehicle and bicycle patrols in this neighborhood to try to help address these issues.”

Westside Pioneer article