Vagrancy ‘simply out of control’

       As the oldest neighborhood group on the Westside of our city, we can no longer stand by while our residents struggle and suffer. The crime and vagrant problems we are seeing are quite simply out of control.
       This is a sample of what our residents, our families, our neighbors, are facing on a daily basis:
       Residents who live along the creek are having problems with vagrant camps on their property and their inability to keep “private property” signs up. Vagrants rip the signs down. So when there are no signs in place when CSPD arrives, camps cannot immediately be removed, as the campers must be evicted first. The residents then have to deal with these camps for days or sometimes weeks.
       Residents find vagrants sleeping on their porches and in their yards and defecating in their yards. They then have to clean feces and toilet paper off their property daily, as well as pick up discarded needles.
       Many of our Westside residents have young children. They are fearful, frustrated and want to leave the neighborhood or the city altogether.
       Due to increasing cases of threatening and aggressive panhandling, we hear constantly that property-tax paying, law-abiding citizens feel trapped inside their homes. Parks on the Westside are becoming unusable to families during the day as numerous vagrants will get in their faces and demand money from them.
       The beautiful Midland Trail, which has been affectionately renamed “The Hobo Highway,” is trashed and has become terrifying to use. Groups like Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful do a great job, but they cannot clean up every day, in every area.
       Twice this week shots have been fired between 27th and 29th streets. Now even when residents are inside their homes, they fear for their safety.
       We have appreciated every instance where public officials are willing to listen to what this community is facing, but listening and taking notes are not solving the increasing problems. Giving propane heaters to homeless people is not making them less aggressive, and providing dumpsters for their garbage is not going to keep them from damaging our community (like the Bancroft Cabin vandalism - twice) and haranguing our residents.
       Thank you for listening, but now we need your action.

Linda Schlarb
(on behalf of the Organization of Westside Neighbors)

Editor’s note: This letter was initially sent to the Colorado Springs mayor and City Council.