Town, Breckenridge police address night crimes
February 12, 2008
BRECKENRIDGE ” Recent late-night incidents that resulted in broken facial features, in one case death and last week a missing person, raised concerns of officials in Breckenridge.
Throughout the last year, police, bar owners and Town officials met, discussing how to reduce the hundreds of fights and incidents they’ve seen. Now, they are continuing to work on strategies, and in a couple places, they’ve seen an improvement.
However, some of what’s happening downtown after dark may not have a solution.
The most important message, Breckenridge Town Councilmember Jeffrey Bergeron wants to get across to people is that one punch could forever change your or someone else’s life.
“I’d say to the patrons, whether it’s one ill-placed or well-placed punch, depending on your perspective, it could kill someone,” Bergeron said. “That is potentially a life-changing decision. … Bar fights can kill someone, and they have.”
Also, millions of dollars are spent on trying to be good hosts for the visitors that drive the Town’s economy. So, while 100,000 people are having a good time, that could be null and void due to a death from a fight, he said.
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“Our hope is to find out if there is anything as a community that we can do to prevent these things from happening. … But honestly some of it is beyond what the Town and bar owner can control,” Bergeron said.
In 2007, Breckenridge Police Department responded to 517 fight calls. Not all resulted in arrests and in some cases the people had fled. Additionally, they responded to 388 disturbances, which, among other possibilities, includes verbal disagreements, criminal mischief and assault, and Breckenridge police transported 117 people to detox.
With efforts in place to affect this problem, local officials are hoping to see those numbers drop in 2008. However, spring break will be a time when that will pose a challenge, police said.
During peak times in the county, when there are more guests and more workers, police see spikes in all calls for service, Holman said. They also see a correlation of calls to drink specials, he said.
Within the Town, about 80 establishments have liquor licenses, but only about 10 have a late-night service, Holman said.
Early interventions are key, he said, adding that people don’t often just “coldcock” someone. A verbal argument is generally the first step, then shoving and squaring off, he said. So, part of what police discussed with bar owners is intervening before an argument escalates.
“We’d much rather come to escort someone out, then after there is blood on the ground,” Holman said.
Mark Burke, owner of Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub and Liquid Lounge in La Cima Mall, has stepped up security at his establishments. He also welcomes police to do walk throughs, doesn’t let people in who appear to be overly intoxicated. The staff is trained to be aware of not over serving and are quick to call the police before something gets out of control, Burke said.
“As a concerned citizen, not just a bar owner, those things (fights and incidents) shout out at you that we have to be more sensitive to this as a town,” Burke said.
And since they met with police in summer and fall, there have been no problems at either establishment, Burke said, adding that, likely due to the atmosphere and female staff at Burke and Riley’s, they’ve never really seen a problem there.
Calls to Cecilia’s and Salt Creek Steakhouse and Club were not returned.
“The police here in Breck quite frankly are phenomenal,” Burke said.
Police impact the situation simply by their presence, and community policing and being visible is certainly something they take to heart.
Breckenridge Assistant Police Chief Greg Morrison said, “I’m a firm believer that high visibility does a lot of good things.”
Think about times driving down the highway when a police vehicle comes into sight, he continued. People usually slow down and become more conscientious drivers just by that visibility.
“You get compliance without doing any enforcement,” he said, adding that that is true in all other situations as well, which is why police patrol in vehicles, on bikes and on foot.
This winter, the department bought snow tires for their bikes so they can do bike patrol all year. Also, they’ve equipped one of the police vehicles with reflective material that brightly shines the word “police” ” something they plan to put on all the vehicles throughout the next couple months.
“Everyone behaves a little better when there’s a cop around … and that contributes to making the county safer for everyone,” Morrison said.