Businesses, law enforcement team up in Colorado Avenue taskforce

September 10, 2013 Updated: September 10, 2013 at 8:58 pm

A crackdown is underway this week along a stretch of West Colorado Avenue known as "No Man's Land" in an effort to deter criminal activity by panhandlers, narcotics dealers and homeless.

Colorado Springs police, Manitou Springs police and El Paso County Sheriff's Office deputies on Monday set up a command center at a parking lot on West Colorado Avenue. They will remain through the weekend and saturate the area in the joint crime-deterrence effort.

This week's crackdown is the result of efforts by the Avenue Task Force, a coalition of westside Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs residents, business owners, elected officials and public safety officers working to reduce crime, improve living conditions and boost economic vitality along the West Colorado Avenue corridor from Old Colorado City into Manitou Springs.

Linda Schlarb , owner of Old Town Propane , at 2725 W. Colorado Ave. , for 19 years, happily provided her parking lot for a law enforcement headquarters during the operation.

"I am thrilled that they are here," Schlarb said. "We need to get these panhandlers and criminals off our streets, they're bad for business and bad for the area. There is a difference between people who genuinely need help, and those who take advantage of generosity."

The Avenue Task Force aims to direct the public's attention toward agencies and organizations that address homelessness, Schlarb said, as donating funds to charities can help these agencies get people's lives turned around.

El Paso County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said the law enforcement activity in the area is a continuance of ongoing efforts with Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs police along West Colorado Avenue and adjacent areas to address concerns and complaints of business owners in the area.

"Due to the multi-jurisdictional issues in that area, the law enforcement approach has been a partnership from the beginning," Kramer said. "The collaborative effort between law enforcement and the business owners to identy and address issues in the area is a great example of community-oriented policing."

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