COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs police are counting on a specialized unit to reduce crime in the city's three most crime-ridden areas.
Commander Pat Rigdon said the Impact team, a five-man unit, is focusing exclusively on the city's southeast side. That area has long been perceived as the city's most violent. That perception was strengthened by a shooting early Wednesday morning that left one man dead and two injured.
"Has (crime) been concentrated a little bit in that area? Yeah, we're absolutely aware of that," said Rigdon.
Rigdon said the Impact team previously investigated the theft of copper and other precious metals, and was assigned to the southeast side two months ago.
"They do a lot of high-visibility enforcement," he said. "They try to get into a particular area, get to the root causes of what some of the issues are, and address those. We want to have a long-term impact there, rather than just get in there, be visible and get out."
Rigdon said the unit has been successful where previous efforts have failed, by getting more cooperation from neighbors and business owners to be alert to suspicious activity and report it immediately.
"Most of the people are great here," said Tom Gallegos, a longtime resident of the southeast side. "It's not as bad as people think. If police patrol like they should instead of having so many traffic stops and speed traps, that's good. My family, we choose not to move."
Donte Hampton, manager of the Qwik Stop store at Chelton Road and Fountain Boulevard, said he agrees with people who say the southeast side is the city's most violent. But the Impact team gives him hope.
"They can tell us about suspicious activity behind the scenes that we don't really know about," said Hampton. "Like drug dealing. I don't always have to keep my eyes open."
Rigdon said police also are using motorcycle patrols on the southeast side.
Regarding the west side and downtown, two other high-crime areas, Rigdon said police conduct foot patrols downtown and have two officers dedicated to west side patrols.
"We're doing the best we can with the limited resources we have," said Rigdon.
Rigdon asks the public to help by watching for suspicious activity and reporting it to police immediately.
"People in those neighborhoods know what's happening there more than we do," he said. "They may get frustrated if it takes a while to get there. But the more they help us, the more we can help them."