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City Council OKs next step in grants for southeast Colorado Springs

December 13, 2017 Updated: December 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm
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Colorado Springs Patrol Officers examine the outside of the Portal apartments while trying to contact a resident that had called for assistance on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. The resident reported a person outside the apartment harassing and threatening them. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)

A Denver nonprofit is looking for more than two dozen people to prioritize how money will be redirected from the state's corrections system to southeast Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the nomination process outlined by House Bill 1326, which was signed into law this June. The bill created a pilot program that cuts jail time for convicted criminals who commit technical parole violations in nonviolent cases and splits the savings between community organizations in north Aurora and southeast Colorado Springs.

To qualify for the money, which will be delivered as grants, the organizations must aim to prevent crime by addressing unemployment, substance abuse, poverty, mental health issues and more, said Dace West, vice president of the nonprofit, The Denver Foundation.

A total of $1.3 million is expected to be divvied up among southeast Colorado Springs organizations annually for this and the next two state budget years, said Patrick Horvath, deputy vice president of programs for the Foundation. The current budget year ends on June 30.

The group selected by the foundation, which will be called the Transforming Safety Local Planning Team, will consist of up to 25 people who live or work in southeast Colorado Springs and establish priorities for those grants, said Horvath.

"They will work together in January and February to explore best practices in crime prevention and safety, learn about neighborhood specific data, and bring their own knowledge and experience from living and working in southeast Colorado Springs to develop these priorities," Horvath said.

The council's approval Tuesday marks another step in the process of implementing the new law, which has been hailed by local lawmakers and community activists as a way to revitalize the southeast side of town. The Gazette recently released a five-day series outlining how the area - home to a fifth of the city's population - has not shared in the rest of the city's prosperity and suffers from high levels of joblessness, crime and medical ailments.

Council members were so enthusiastic about the item Tuesday that they jokingly argued over who would receive the honor of introducing the motion to approve the process.

Councilman Tom Strand first sought to make the motion, but quickly ceded the move to Councilwoman Yolanda Avila, who represents the southeast side.

"Tom, Tom, Tom. He's so eager," Avila said, laughing. "I'm super excited about this bill. ... We really appreciate this and need this in the southeast."

Avila also acknowledged and thanked State Rep. Tony Exum Sr., who represents the district and supported the bill and State Rep. Pete Lee, the bill's originator.

The application process for the Local Planning Team is now open at transformingsafety.org, Horvath said. The process closes Jan. 1 and the Foundation will select the team members by Jan. 3.

Grant applications will be accepted in March and are due in early April, Horvath said.

"And in May the grants will hit the ground," he said.

A new grant application period will begin in the fall with the same guidelines as the first, Horvath said.

Violent crime. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 10,559 violent crimes reported in Colorado Springs (murder/manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault). 3,231 or 31% took place in the 18 southeast census tracts. That means about 3 of every 10 violent crimes occurred in the southeast even though it makes up only about a fifth of the population.
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