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February 22, 2007 07:43 PM UTC

Sorry, We Spent Our Money on Snow Melting

  • 1 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey yesterday asked the Denver City Council for more money to help combat dangerous gangs in Denver. As The Denver Post reports:

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey wants nearly half a million dollars to staff a task force to dismantle the city’s top gangs through a grand jury investigation. Morrissey unveiled his needs during a meeting with members of the Denver City Council when he was asked what he wants to attack gang problems.

He added that he was in “ongoing discussions” with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper over a proposal. Hickenlooper said in a later interview that he already has raised $150,000 from private sources, which he would not divulge, to hire a gang attorney for Morrissey and was surprised Morrissey wanted more money. “Today was the first day I heard we needed more funds,” Hickenlooper said.

The discussions over the proposal were the latest example of how the gang issue has surfaced following the slaying of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams in an early New Year’s Day drive-by shooting…

…Two key council members – council President Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz – said Wednesday that they want to put Morrissey’s full proposal on the fast track and want a plan that would include the backing of city tax funds ready for council consideration early next month. Hancock said he felt the mayor hadn’t acted quickly enough because Morrissey had characterized his discussions with the mayor as “ongoing.”…

…In 1998, Morrissey was chief of the gang unit in the DA’s office. At that time, four attorneys were assigned specifically to gang cases along with a Denver police detective, two investigators and support staff. Morrissey said that in the late ’90s, the gang unit used the grand jury to dismantle the Horton gang, which for decades had terrorized Denver. Now, the unit has only one prosecutor, one investigator and support staff at a time when gang-related felonies and misdemeanors are on the rise, Morrissey said.

Currently the DA’s gang unit is prosecuting 200 active cases – 22 of them first-degree murder cases. Last year, the unit sent another 250 cases to deputy prosecutors outside the unit.

Faatz, who heads the council’s finance committee, wants proposed legislation ready for consideration by her committee in March. “Our feeling is let’s get on with with this to get within this year’s grand-jury life span,” Faatz said. She said she had other discussions with Morrissey’s staffers about the proposal and got the sense that the proposal had been “stagnating” despite Morrissey’s lobbying of the Hickenlooper administration. She added that she views the cost as ongoing and would be built into the city’s budget each year until gang problems subsided.

Councilman Doug Linkhart said he’s not sure there’s enough money in the city budget for the full plan. “Who knows if we have any money left over after all the snow-removal costs?” Linkhart said. “But Faatz said let’s get moving and let’s get it funded.”

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