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Department of Public Safety Launches Denver Opportunity Index

DENVER – Today, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and Executive Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs launched the Denver Opportunity Index (DOI), a philosophical shift in public safety service delivery focused on identifying opportunities for strategic collaboration that will help improve residents’ quality of life, thereby enhancing public safety for everyone in Denver.

“We create stronger neighborhoods when our residents trust the people serving them, and that trust is enhanced when our public safety officials take an equity-focused approach to safety,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Improving community safety, accountability and dialogue between first responders and neighbors is our highest objective, and getting at these root causes will help us better address the needs of our residents and neighborhoods in a more thoughtful and supportive way.”

Using census data, the Department of Public Safety (DOS) analysts reviewed 142 census tracts in the metro area for median household income, education levels social and health factors as compared to city averages, along with the prevalence of crime in each area.

Common themes were identified in the census tract data and broken into three categories: financial security, health and people left behind.

“The data analysis confirmed what many of us already know in Denver, “said Executive Director Troy Riggs. “While many areas are experiencing great prosperity, there are people in our community who are really struggling to meet basic needs. This struggle likely contributes to increased interactions with safety personnel in our city and we want to create a process that addresses these needs before they rise to the level of public safety intervention.”

Compiling and analyzing data allows the DOS to look at social factors that may be contributing to behaviors that ultimately impact public safety. It also allows the DOS to have a more robust conversation about what the needs of residents are and how public safety can help them.

The DOS has successfully implemented changes to better address social factors, including the Denver Police co-responder program and the Denver Sheriff transition from jail to community program, there is more to be done to support the health and well-being of residents from a public safety lens.

“If a person struggling with addiction calls 9-1-1 for assistance, we want to empower our first responders to meet that person’s needs and it isn’t necessarily a repeat trip to the nearest emergency department,” said Riggs. “Right now, our safety response is limited to a few options which will likely not address the root cause of the behavior. We know there’s a lot of great work going on in Denver and we want to partner with community organizations to make a meaningful connection between the person in crisis and the appropriate level of support, which oftentimes is not public safety.”

The DOS is launching a series of community meetings to share the Opportunity Index with the community and to learn from community if their experiences are consistent with what the data is showing. That information will be compiled to understand how the DOS can help make connections between those that need assistance and the community organization that can best provide it.

To get involved in Public Safety’s efforts surrounding the DOI, the community is encouraged to attend one or more of the upcoming Listen and Learn Community Meetings:

Tuesday, October 30, 6 – 7:30 PM St. Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square – 1450 N. Washington St, Denver 80203

Wednesday, November 7, 6 – 7:30 PM Swansea Recreation Center – 2650 E 49th Ave, Denver 80216

Thursday, November 15 – 6 – 7:30 PM Decatur Place Apartments – 1155 Decatur St, Denver 80204

The Department of Public Safety (DOS) unifies all the city agencies tasked with ensuring Denver is the safest and most welcoming city in the nation. Our mission is to deliver a full spectrum of high-quality, public safety services to the individuals who live, work and play in the City and County of Denver. Learn more at denvergov.org/safety or follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@DenSafetyDept).