Breckenridge police balance nightlife, town safety |

Breckenridge police balance nightlife, town safety

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Ask almost anyone – even police chief Rick Holman – and they’ll tell you: Breckenridge is kind of a party town. Especially at spring break, and particularly after a winter season of record snowfall.

But for local officials and law enforcement, keeping the town a vibrant location that people want to visit while maintaining order and public safety is a kind of delicate balancing act, one they’ve had to perfect over the years.

“We do strive for that balance because (tourism) is our lifeblood,” town spokeswoman Kim DiLallo said. “We recognize the fact that these people are guests of our community and they want to be able to come here and have a great time.”

Spring break, like Christmas week and other peak times, generally brings an increase in police calls, particularly related to alcohol and traffic, Holman said. To handle the increase in calls, Breckenridge has a larger than average police staff for a town with a permanent population of about 3,000 people.

But even at peak times, the police department approaches law enforcement with a community perspective.

“We understand that if you don’t have a vibrant nightlife and activity that you aren’t going to attract a younger crowd and then we’re not going to be successful as a resort community,” Holman said.

He said the Breckenridge Police Department manages to balance their work with the health of the business community through partnerships with the ski industry as well as restaurants and bars in town, with regular safety meetings and open communication.

Generally, Breckenridge has also helped maintain the balance by cultivating a reputation as a more mature party town, DiLallo said.

But during spring break, which begins around mid-March and can last through much of April, younger visitors tend to flock to town.

This year, lodging occupancy numbers are pacing at 60 to 70 percent of capacity through the end of March, according to data from the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

Official events for Breckenridge’s retooled spring festival, called Spring Fever, are set to begin April 1. Chief Holman said the police department has worked with the ski resort to plan for the festival, and the ski area will hire extra law enforcement officers during events to help with crowd control.

“There’s a lot of communication and up front planning that goes into realizing these things are going to happen, but yet still trying to maintain public safety within the community,” Holman said.

The Summit County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain, takes a no-nonsense approach to law enforcement year round.

“Our approach doesn’t change for spring break,” Sheriff John Minor said. “I think people understand that you can have a good time, but you better do it responsibly. Otherwise, we’ve got a nice jail you can stay at.”

Both the county and Breckenridge have free public bus systems, offering a transportation option for people who are drinking.

“We encourage people to really take public transportation, not just in our town, but in our community,” DiLallo said. “It’s the easy way to go.”

Schedules and routes for the county transportation system, the Summit Stage, are available online at and for the Breckenridge Free Ride under “Departments and Services.”

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