Safer Boulder 2022 Draft Priorities
The 2022 Boulder City Council retreat kicks off this afternoon with a fresh council including five new members. Ahead of the retreat, Safer Boulder submitted a preliminary draft of potential city-focused 2022 priorities to all the council members. In developing these initial priorities, we focused on issues that the city could act on without requiring upfront cooperation from the county or the state.
These priorities are based on discussions with city staff, input from members, research, and conversations with other leaders in the city. However, we are emphasizing that this is a draft as we fully expect these priorities to evolve over the coming months as we reach out to more of the Safer Boulder community and city experts.
Please read the submission to city council below.
Dear City Council Members,
As representatives of Safer Boulder, we are hopeful that your upcoming retreat will help find common ground to address public health and safety issues in our community. Strategies that balance public safety with compassion, focus on the root causes of crime and other unsafe behaviors, and are supported by data and empirical evidence, are what’s most needed now.
In advance of your retreat, we would like to present you with a brief draft of the Safer Boulder 2022 priorities that focus on city policy. We are currently working to develop these priorities in greater detail.
1) Enforcement of the Camping Ban. The camping ban is an essential tool in protecting the health and safety of our public spaces. Camping jeopardizes the health of our public spaces through the accumulation of trash and other human waste, while creating additional unsafe situations for both campers, residents, and visitors. Beyond the health and safety of our public spaces, according to experts and local staff, allowing camping and low barrier services without an exit strategy supported through compassionate enforcement perpetuates chronic homelessness. Furthermore, allowing camping induces the added strain on our sheltering system during severe weather episodes by creating temporary and unpredictable spikes in the need for service. Though the camping ban alone is not a solution to crime or homelessness, it integrates with our subsequent priorities to maximize our current services and help the greatest number of people. Based on discussions with city staff and the Boulder Police Department (BPD), we would like to see enforcement increased to 3 times per week with continued support of BPD’s recommendations on enforcement.
2) Creation of an Alternative Court at the municipal level. Since 2020, it has become increasingly clear that in order to address crime, we need to create a new alternative court program at the city level, to reduce our reliance on county programs such as the jail or the future alternative sentencing facility. Judge Cooke takes pride in using ticketing to bring people to court as a touch point to connect misdemeanor offenders with city and county services. However, discussions with homeless advocates and mental health professionals suggest that there is a lack of clarity around how to actually engage with the services and few connections are successful. Furthermore, it does not appear the success of this approach has been monitored or documented. Instead, we suggest something similar to the Drug Courts of other cities. This type of compassionate enforcement approach reduces the criminalization of misdemeanors, while connecting offenders directly with the appropriate services. These services, which can be mandated by the Alternative Court, include drug treatment, mental health care, skills training, and stable housing assistance. Such a system further serves as a Navigation Center through the court system. However, we still need to explore how a city Alternative Court would interact with existing programs such as the state Adult Integrated Treatment Court (AITC) and with existing county programs.
3) City Mental and Behavioral Health program group or advisory board. In early 2020, Safer Boulder identified improving mental and behavioral health as a top priority under our mission. Without appropriate options for drug treatment and mental health care, it is nearly impossible to preempt crime or reduce recidivism. However, creating solutions to the current roadblocks to treatment in Boulder is daunting as health care is primarily administered by Boulder County. As such, we would like to see a program group, perhaps under Housing & Human Services (HHS), or an advisory board created to evaluate potential city administered mental and behavioral health programs and to advocate on the city’s behalf with the county.
4) Support proposed programs to create Good Neighbors. Many of our members and supporters have reached out with concerns around neighbors involved in housing programs, including Housing First, not following the good neighbor requirements. Recent discussions with HHS staff and homeless advocates have confirmed that this is a known issue, which stems from a lack of support after people are placed in independent housing. Additionally, according to first responders, there are a disproportionate number of calls for service from Housing First units. This further suggests a lack of adequate assistance in transitioning people into independent living. We strongly support the recommendations of HHS to create a robust peer support program paired with Housing First. We would also like to see the hiring of more case managers, as well as an improved system to ensure accessible wrap around services. Ultimately, a transitional housing program with in-house support would maximize Housing First success. Such a program would be structured to compliment our current Housing First program and to not jeopardize any current state and federal funding. We plan to explore such a program under Priority #5 as a regional collaboration.
5) Continued Prioritization of Coordination between the City of Boulder and Boulder County on decreasing crime and mental and behavioral health programs. In developing our 2022 priorities, it was difficult to limit these aims to city-specific approaches, as the prominent issues of crime, health, and safety require county programs to make significant strides in solving the associated problems. As such, we will continue to advocate for increased coordination between the city and the county in these areas.
Over the next few months, we plan to continue to research these proposals and seek additional feedback from city staff, opinion leaders, and Safer Boulder members in order to create more detailed plans complete with supporting documentation.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Safer Boulder team