EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The El Paso Police Department said violent crime is down in the Cincinnati Entertainment District and changes are coming to the lively block.
EPPD said the block saw less violent crime over the last month thanks to an increased presence in law enforcement.
EPPD Lt. Shields, whose first name has been withheld for security, told members of the city’s Uptown Parking Benefit District that there is a safety “saturation” effort, not just in the Cincinnati area, but in entertainment areas across the city.
Since late April, police have made seven felony arrests, all related to drugs, Shields said. Also, one individual was arrested on a warrant.
Police have also accounted for 101 parking citations, 50 traffic-related tickets and 102 subject checks. Officers have also searched 111 vehicles.
Shields mentioned police are still seeing motorists driving on the wrong side of the street but a committee member quickly pointed out it has been an issue for 30 years.
“Violent crime has been down and that’s really good,” she said.
In addition to the lower crime reports, there are some changes proposed for the Cincinnati area.
A consultant is looking into sprucing up the area with suggestions from the committee. Those include no parking in alleyways, as well as one-way alleys and making the streets pedestrian-only after 6 p.m.
There are also proposals to include decorative lighting, planters, artwork, surface treatment and freshly painted phone lines.
The news was welcomed by members of the parking district, who had heard complaints from the community about crime and noise earlier this year.
Businesses along Cincinnati Avenue drew criticism from the public due to incidents of violence and noise as commercial activity came back to life. The storefronts and bars had been sleepy for more than a year due to state and city mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But things are looking up for the so-called entertainment district as revenues collected from parking meters reflect more business coming in compared to last year. In all, the Uptown Parking Benefit District has $52,273 to spare for security and improvement efforts, according to city documents.
Business owners on the committee and police agreed progress has been made on noise mitigation in the area. They noted the Lost and Found bar had set up a noise barrier and dialed back the volume of music.
“We still have complaints. What the officers are telling me is not anywhere near as bad as it was like before that wall was built,” she said.
But Shields said efforts to crack down on crime in certain areas of the city has pushed a “criminal element” to other bars and locations. It’s a good and bad thing, she told the committee.
She named El Rey Muerto and El Paso Drafthouse, both on N. Mesa Street, as spots where the police are showing more attention.
Business owner responds to police eying activity at his locations
Justin Kaufman, owner of El Rey Muerto and El Paso Drafthouse, had strong words for the police’s remarks during the meeting last week. He said he feels most police do a good job and are committed to the community.
But he said that his establishments have gotten the wrong attention from authorities.
“El Paso Drafthouse has had one false claim, where someone supposedly said there was someone with a gun and a 50 person fight,” Kaufman said. “There was not one injury reported and it was all false information. It was poorly given info and miscommunication by the polcie to the news.”
A spokesman for the police department said their patrolmen were alerted of a possible active shooter and that calls were made to 911 from persons “to include employee(s) from inside the bar who reported shots fired.”
“Descriptions of the shooter relayed to responding patrol officers as relayed by dispatch from the callers was that of a black male,” the spokesman wrote in an email to KTSM 9 News. “The information shared on social media was of paramount importance in the interest of public safety only.”
Kaufman said his establishments provide safe and controlled environments and questions why police were dispatched to his establishment on May 2.
“The reality is, there are people in high places who do not like black people to have a place to drink at,” he said. “There is a handful of police who have not liked what I do, specifically because we like to host things for the urban community. There are racist cops on the police force. The reality is, there are people in high places who do not like black people to have a place to drink at.”
The police spokesman dismissed Kaufman’s remarks.
“To imply or assert anything other than that as the basis of the police response is not only absurdly ludicrous but also a reprehensibly irresponsible scapegoat statement to resort to in the absence of having any legitimate substance to stand on,” the spokesman said.