Police in downtown Boulder on on Oct. 30, 2021. Reports of violent crimes are on the rise in Boulder. Credit: Anthony Albidrez

The Boulder Police Department is shifting its strategy for policing to focus on specific locations across the city where officers have received the most calls and reports of crime. 

This includes sending out more officers to patrol places like the Table Mesa Park-n-Ride, where officers have received reports of people stealing cars and car parts, such as catalytic converters. 

It also includes discussing potential crime-reduction strategies with business owners at the 24-hour convenience store Circle K on 15th and Canyon, and the 24-hour breakfast restaurant IHOP on 28th. 

The details came during a police department town hall on May 5, 2022, part of a monthly series intended to inform the public about the department’s work and take feedback. The city is developing a new master plan for the Boulder Police Department. About a dozen people tuned in for Thursday’s meeting either online or in-person at City Hall. 

During the town hall, Stephen Redfearn, the deputy chief of operations for the Boulder Police Department, said the city began having weekly meetings in late March to discuss how to reduce the number of reported crimes in these areas. 

Since then, Redfearn said the city police have been at the Table Mesa Park-n-Ride handing out warning flyers to commuters and working on a long-term policing strategy with Regional Transportation District (RTD), which manages the bus stop and park and ride. He also said the police have sought to set up a camera outside the Circle K. 

Police Chief Maris Herold said in the case of the IHOP, there was just one woman working the overnight shift. 

“And she’s expected to control all of the variables that happened overnight. You can imagine intoxication issues, drug issues, all kinds of things,” Herold said. “Does it seem fair? Does it seem right? So we’re just trying to engage with the businesses.” 

She said the department also added two more officers to its team in charge of ticketing people for camping in public spaces and helping clear encampments of homeless people. As part of the city’s response to homelessness, it makes it illegal to sleep in public spaces through a controversial camping ban. The city already clears about two encampments per week, according to Herold. 

The shift in policy is part of a broader response to an uptick in crime across the city, like much of the rest of the country, according to Redfearn. He said the department is taking credit for a recent dip in reported crimes at these locations.

Violent crimes — which include aggravated assaults, robbery, rape and murder — are on the rise in Boulder, according to an analysis by the Boulder Reporting Lab of crime data reported by the Boulder Police Department to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (Relative to Colorado and the U.S., these crime rates were never that high to begin with, according to FBI data dating back to 1985.)  

Credit: John Herrick/Boulder Reporting Lab

Herold said one of the goals is to address the rise in crime and be more efficient in the process. 

“The important thing to me, if we’re really reimagining policing, is that I’m not filling the jails and I’m actually preventing these bad things from happening,” she said. 

Herold also said the police department is down 28 cops, which represents about 15% of the department’s police force of nearly 200. She said the city is giving out $10,000 bonuses to new officers who transfer in from other cities and towns. The city requires officers to have a bachelor’s degree. 

The city and county are also working on creating their own police academy that provides college credit and certification through courses at CU-Boulder, Herold added. She said she hopes to launch the academy in the next year and half. 

The next town hall is scheduled for June 16, 2022.

John Herrick

I report on housing, climate, health and local government for the Boulder Reporting Lab. I previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for VTDigger.org. I’m interested in stories about people, power and fairness.