2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Violent crime in Colorado Springs’ southeast neighborhoods frustrates Neighborhood Watch guru

    Mon, June 3, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Dennis Moore

    Dennis Moore

    Did you see that recent story declaring Pikes Peak Park the most dangerous neighborhood for gun violence in all of Colorado?

    Dennis Moore, the city’s volunteer Neighborhood Watch coordinator, said there’s a reason for the problem. (Here’s a 2009 column I wrote about Moore’s work.)

    “People don’t want to get involved,” said Moore, who lives just outside Pikes Peak Park and has family in the troubled neighborhood.

    But he said the issue of deadly violence is not unique to Pikes Peak Park. It’s all over the larger Sand Creek area. And it will continue as long as people ignore it and refuse to call police.

    “The whole southeast part of town has that type of crime,” Moore said. “The biggest complaint I have is that we can’t get people there to be involved in their community.”

    Of the 800-some Neighborhood Watch groups logged by the Colorado Springs Police Department, including Business Watch and Apartment Watch groups, barely 100 are in the Sand Creek Division of CSPD.


    Moore is frustrated because he sees a real opportunity in the area’s heavy concentration of apartment complexes.

    “I go and talk to apartment complex managers to try and organize apartment watch groups,” Moore said. “But they are too busy. And some are afraid.”

    They are only hurting themselves by not making time, he said.

    Same for the thousands of renters in the area. They may not feel invested as a homeowner, but getting involved is still important.

    “The stuff inside their apartments is their property and they ought to try to protect it,” Moore said.

    It’s as simple as calling police when they see suspicious activity in their parking lots and buildings.

    Dennis Moore, volunteer Neighborhood Watch coordinator, and Officer Lori Torrini of the Colorado Springs Police Department, lead a training session in this Jan. 7, 2009, photo.

    Dennis Moore, volunteer Neighborhood Watch coordinator, and Officer Lori Torrini of the Colorado Springs Police Department, lead a training session in this Jan. 7, 2009, photo.

    There are other techniques and they involve organizing watch groups and meeting your neighbors and making those calls to police.

    Want to learn more? Plan on attending Moore’s next training session at 1 p.m., June 22, at the Police Department’s Falcon Division, 7850 Goddard St., when Moore hosts his next training session for the Neighborhood and Business Watch Program.

    In 90 minutes, participants in the free training session will learn the basics about Neighborhood Watch and find out what it takes to become a block captain.

    Get there, join and maybe that crime rate will drop.



    Mon, March 11, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments


    Marie VanRemortel was going door-to-door in her Mountain Shadows neighborhood Thursday and Friday to rally folks on Champagne Drive and Ramsgate Terrace to join her in a new Neighborhood Watch group.

    She also called Colorado Springs Police to arrange for an officer to come to a meeting and help organize the group.

    VanRemortel launched herself into action after she was victimized by a con artist she met earlier Thursday.

    The episode left her shaken. She was shocked at her own gullibility, worried about the vulnerability of herself and others and determined to protect as many neighbors as she could.

    It started as she was painting furniture in her garage with her door open.

    A stranger saw in her garage and walked up the driveway claiming he lived nearby and needed a ride to the American Legion. He was trying to get money to send to his wife in Fort Collins where she’d had a wreck.

    The stranger convinced VanRemortel he was ex-military, like her husband, and a neighbor.

    “He was so convincing,” she said. “He totally had me.”

    Before she knew it, VanRemortel was driving the man to an American Legion Post near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard where he could collect some cash.

    He came out of the building empty-handed, however, with an explanation he’d missed the cash-disbursement officer.

    So she drove him home and gave him some cash, dropping him in front of the house where he said he lived.

    But then she noticed something that bothered her.

    “As I drove away, I noted that he did not attempt to enter the house but just stood out on the porch talking on his cellphone,” VanRemortel said. “He then walked around the side of the house but did not go into the house.”

    She told her husband of the encounter when he got home from work and together they went back to the house. Finding no one, they looked up the block and saw the man talking to another neighbor in his driveway.

    Before they could get there, the stranger and the neighbor were driving away.

    So they returned to the house where she had dropped the stranger off earlier. The owners said the stranger did not, in fact, live there.

    “I felt so stupid,” VanRemortel said.

    Especially when she realized she’d been driving a con man around town with her 10-year-old son in the car.

    “Giving him money, being duped doesn’t bother me as much as knowing I had my son with me,” she said. “That’s the scariest part.”

    Dennis Moore

    Dennis Moore

    Sadly, her encounter did not surprise Dennis Moore, the city’s longtime Neighborhood Watch coordinator.

    “You bet it could have ended tragically,” Moore told me. “That’s why you’ve got to know your neighbors.

    “You’ve got to be careful. When somebody comes to your door, find out who they are. Don’t let them in your house. Don’t let them near you. Don’t accept them at face value.”

    And if you are active in a Neighborhood Watch group, Moore said, you are less likely to be conned.

    “If you know your neighbors, you are not going to befooled by somebody who says he lives in the neighborhood,” Moore said.

    And that’s why VanRemortel is canvassing her neighborhood. She’s not going to let it happen again.

    “There are some old Neighborhood Watch signs in the area,” she said. “We used to have a group. I want to get new signs. And get everyone’s contact information so we can reach them when something like this happens.”

    She will get a great head start by attending a Neighborhood and Business Watch training session Moore has scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Police Department’s Gold Hill Division community room, 955 West Morena Ave.

    It’s free, open to the public and a perfect introduction for people like VanRemortel who want to be block captains and need to know how a Neighborhood Watch group works.

    Anyone with questions can call Moore at 444-7206.

    Suddenly, VanRemortel is a believer in the value of knowing your neighbors.

    “I am now determined to get to know all of my neighbors,” she said. “So they don’t fall for the same situation that I did.”





    Sun, March 4, 2012 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Sandy Hill offers a dog treat to Uriah as his owner, Scott Cooper, and neighbor Dennis Moore look on. Neighbor Mary Polomus watches from her porch.

    It’s not every day you win a large rolling trash bin in a raffle.

    So what was Sandy Hill’s reaction when she learned recently she’d be getting a free 10-yard dumper courtesy a home and garden show contest?

    “I immediately thought of our Neighborhood Watch,” Sandy said. “Several years ago we got a 20-yard Dumpster. We talked about doing it again. But money’s been tight.”

    Sandy’s luck is being shared with the 14 or so other families on tiny Bandelier Drive in the modest Pikes Peak Park neighborhood east of Prospect Lake.

    Sandy’s reaction — thinking of her neighbors — is exactly the reflex leaders of Neighborhood Watch are trying to develop across Colorado Springs.

    Bandelier Street is a textbook example because one of its residents is Dennis Moore, who has dedicated his retirement to serving as the Colorado Springs Police Department‘s top Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

    He helps recruit and train block captains for the program and spreads the gospel of Neighborhood Watch with classes and programs across the city.

    Sandy said Dennis has converted everyone on Bandelier to the benefits of Neighborhood Watch.

    “We’ve got a good group,” she said. “We watch out for each other.”

    Neighborhood Watch has enriched her life with its quarterly meetings and annual barbecue.

    “When we meet, it’s like family,” Sandy said. “When I go out of town, I tell those around me. They pick up my mail and keep an eye on things. It’s a great neighborhood.”

    Bandelier didn’t need a formal Neighobrhood Watch program when Mary Polomus and her husband moved in to their little home in 1961.

    “We had a nice neighborhood,” Mary said, sitting on her porch Thursday as Scott Cooper of Bin There Dump That lowered the trash dumper into her yard. She volunteered her home in the middle of the block to host the bin.

    “Back then, there were 40 children in this block,” she said, waving at the tidy little homes, many built in the late 1950s with a couple bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms and a single-car garage.

    Sandy Hill and Dennis Moore begin filling the 10-yard rolling trash bin.

    “We raised six children in this house,” Mary said.

    “The women would stand in the street in the mornings with our coffee and decide what we were going to do that day.”

    She smiled at the memory.

    “We left our doors unlocked and we left our keys in the car,” she said. “Those days are gone.”

    Although neighbors are friendly, there are no morning sidewalk coffee klatches.

    And Mary’s glad to have a new group in the neighborhood to lean on.

    “Oh, gosh, I don’t know what I’d do without my neighbors,” she said. “The neighborhood is slowly coming back and Neighborhood Watch is helping.”


    The Crime Prevention Website lists classes.  Below is a list of some of the current classes and location that are scheduled.

    March 5th, 6:30-7:30 P.M., Active Shooter for Citizens at the Sand Creek Division

    March 8th, 6-8 P.M., Home Safety at the Falcon Division

    March 15th, 6 P.M., Responsible Firearm Ownership at the Gold Hill Division

    March 22nd, 7 P.M., Home Security at the Stetson Hills Division

    Dennis R. Moore

    Neighborhood Watch Coordinator

    Sand Creek Division

    Colorado Springs Police Department

    4125 Center Park Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80916





    Wed, August 24, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Development of the Wagon Trails Neighborhood began in 2000 and the first homes were built in 2001. Homeowner includes membership in a private neighborhood swimming pool, tennis court and basketball court.

    Wagon Trails neighborhood is the first in Colorado Springs that I’ve seen take Facebook to a new level.

    Other neighborhoods are using social media to get people together and to promote their area. But Wagon Trails is ratcheting up the activity to new levels.

    It’s a cross between Neighborhood Watch and a social calendar.

    The Wagon Trails Recreation Association collects $250 annual dues for maintenance of the pool and facillites. But there is no homeowners association board to enforce neighborhood covenants.


    Movie night attracts a big crowd like this event in 2009.


    The neighborhood used Facebook to promote an ice cream social on Aug. 20, 2011.


    The neighborhood held a flea market recently.


    The July neighborhood barbecue drew a huge crowd.


    The private swimming pool is the heart of the Wagon Trails neighborhood.



    Wed, August 3, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    When you drive into Pastime Place in the Village Seven neighborhood of Colorado Springs, pay attention to the Neighborhood Watch signs on the light pole.

    These folks mean it.

    Especially Charlotte Mock. She’s been the Neighborhood Watch block captain since 1978.

    That is 33 years of watching her neighborhood. At 69, Charlotte remains committed to the program and is as enthusiastic as ever.

    On Tuesday, despite heavy rain, she and her husband, Ken, carried on with their National Night Out festivities between downpours.

    They dried off their chairs, built a fire in their pit and invited neighbors out to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

    Officer Bob Harris of the Colorado Springs Police Department stopped by to encourage the group and reinforce the Neighborhood Watch message of neighbors helping each other to stay safe.

    Colorado Springs Police Officer Bob Harris joined residents of Pastime Place on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, to observe the annual National Night Out, a program to raise awareness of crime and promote the Neighborhood Watch program.

    National Night Out festivities are a tradition on Pastime Place thanks to the Mocks. They have been coordinating Neighborhood Watch events three times a year for decades.

    They have a Christmas party, a Fourth of July parade and the Night Out in August.

    This year they had a dessert buffet and celebrated a neighbor’s birthday. They scrapped a planned sing-along due to the weather.

    Kids, adults and dogs get in on the fun during the Fourth of July parade.

    A patriotic Ken Mock and the Mock dogs, Merlot and Arubie, got prepared for the Fourth of July parade.

    Protecting the neighborhood is important to Charlotte and Ken.

    Over the years, they’ve seen the benefits of being aware of strangers in the cul de sac.

    Several times they’ve notice intruders and stopped burglaries in progress.

    They’ve also seen fringe benefits.

    By taking the time to get to know their neighbors, they’ve made new friends.

    And the process has opened lines of communication that make it easier for neighbors to resolve conflicts that seem to arise from time to time in every neighborhood.

    Charlotte is so commited she has created a little welcome tradition for newcomers to Pastime Place. She makes cookies and introduces herself.

    In addition, she gives new residents a map of the street with names and phone numbers of the neighbors to help them get to know everybody.

    Charlotte Mock displays a front page from The Gazette Telegraph from Aug. 7, 1996, which shows her leading a sing-along during that year's National Night Out observance.



    Follow this link to see my 2010 National Night Out column. The blog that accompanied it can be found here.


  • NATIONAL NIGHT OUT: Make a friend, protect yourself

    Sun, August 1, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Pop quiz: Name the first line of defense against neighborhood crime.

    Answer: Residents, of course.

    Police constantly urge folks to keep an eye on their neighborhoods.

    Look for suspicious people and vehicles.

    Jot down license plates and descriptions.

    Call police and alert your neighbors.

    When it comes to citizen/police cooperation in crime fighting, Tuesday is the biggest night of the year.

    It’s the annual National Night Out when neighbors are urged to turn on their porch lights, go out and meet their neighbors.

    Dozens of Naitonal Night Out events are planned around Colorado Springs and in the communities surrounding the city from Monument to Black Forest to Falcon to Stratmoor Hills and Security/Widefield.

    Many events involve barbecues and games.

    It’s a great chance to make friends, eat a hot dog or burger, and in many neighborhoods meet and talk to police officers or El Paso County Sheriff’s deputies who attend National Night Out neighborhood events.

    ‘The event has an interesting history and is closely associated with the Neighborhood Watch program and the National Association of Town Watch.

    Check this link for information about Neighborhood Watch from Colorado Springs Police.

    Here’s a good place to start if you want to learn more about the national Neighborhood Watch program.

    I’ve written about Neighborhood Watch in the past. Here’s a link to a previous story and the blog that went with it.

  • DEERFIELD HILLS — headed for revitalization

    Wed, April 1, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Deerfield Hills is a modest neighborhood in a triangle bounded by South Academy Boulevard, Drennan Road and Hancock Expressway on the southeastern edge of Colorado Springs.

    The area has struggled for years with gangs, crime and property deterioration. It is one of the poorest neighborhoodsin Colorado Springs, based on a variety of demographic data available at ZipSkinny.com and City-Data.com.

    But it has its champions, led by longtime resident Doug Jones, shown here in a 2004 Gazette file photo.

    Jones has rallied his neighbors to clean up Deerfield Hills, to establish a Neighborhood Watch program and drive the criminals out of the area. Jones was instrumental in lobbying the City Council to build a “sprayground at the Deerfield Hills Community Center  after a city swimming pool there was closed.

    In the 2007 Gazette photo, above, Amanda Schult played in the sprayground at the Deerfield Hills Community Center.

    Now, Jones’ work is paying off again for Deerfield Hills. At its March 24 meeting, the City Council designated Deerfield Hills as a Neighborhood Strategy Area, which qualifies it for federal Community Development Block Grants.

    There is strict criteria an area must meet to become a ore than half of its residents are designated as low- to moderate-income.

    The City Council must approve a neighborhood once the financial need is certified. Only then can a neighborhood set goals and priorities and develop an improvement plan — a process that can take months.

    Don Sides, who manages the block grant capital improvement program, puts the neighborhood into the mix for available grant funds — usually $600,000 to $800,000 each year. The designation is lucrative to a neighborhood. Here is a look at how three outgoing NSAs benefited over the years:

    Hillside, just southeast of downtown, won the coveted designation and has received $5.2 million in capital improvement grants over the years for infrastructure and $1 million for housing rehabilitation projects.
    Knob Hill, near Union Boulevard and Platte Avenue east of downtown, has received $1.4 million in capital improvement grants plus $2.8 million for housing rehab.
    Mesa Springs, west of Interstate 25 and south of Fillmore Street, has received $1.2 million in capital improvement grants and $1 million in housing rehab.

    Click here to read a Powerpoint presentation Sides created regarding the strategy areas.

    For more Information regarding designated neighborhood strategy areas please contact Valorie Jordan, manager of the city’s Housing and Community Development program. Her number is 385-5336.



    Wed, January 7, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 2 comments

    In Colorado Springs, Dennis Moore is Mr. Neighborhood Watch.

    He is one of those people who simply like helping others. Even if it requires hours of work every week on their own time.

    In 1991, Moore organized a Neighborhood Watch group in his Bandelier Drive neighborhood in southeast Colorado Springs.

    Then, a year ago, Moore began donating hours and hours of his retirement time to help similar groups across the city as the volunteer Neighborhood Watch program coordinator in the Sand Creek division of the Colorado Springs Police Department. He works closely with Crime Prevention Officer Lori Torrini. In fact, they share a cramped office at the Sand Creek police station.

    Here’s a photo of Moore, left, and Torrini at a recent quarterly meeting of Sand Creek area block captains.

    Starting Jan. 12, Moore will take an ever higher-profile role as CSPD launches a three-month project to train all Neighborhood Watch block captains. It’s part of the agency’s year-long goal of re-energizing the city’s Neighborhood Watch program and fighting crime on a block-by-block basis.

    Moore was instrumental in rewriting the Neighborhood Watch Block Captain Handbook - the book at the heart of the upcoming training. Here is a schedule for the training sessions.

    Moore devotes his evenings and weekends to helping his neighbors. Here is a photo of Moore, left, and  in 2006 during a neighborhood cleanup effort.

    Moore will go anywhere, talk to anyone to promote Neighborhood Watch. Here he is being chatted up by a TV news crew.


    No blog about Moore would be complete if I didn’t include some of the information he feels is important for every neighbor in the Springs area. So here is part of his list.

    First, how to reach Moore: 719-444-7206 or moorede@ci.colospgs.co.us

    Important Phone Numbers 

    Emergency                          911

    Non-Emergency                 444-7000

    Poison Control       1-800-332-3073


    Falcon Division

    General Info                          444-7240

    Duty Desk                             444-7249

    Crime Prevention                444-7246

    Investigations                       444-7245


    Gold Hill Division

    General Info                          385-2100

    Duty Desk                             385-2125

    Crime Prevention                385-2117

    Investigations                       385-2128


    Sand Creek Division

    General Info                          444-7270

    Duty Desk                             444-7282

    Crime Prevention                444-7276

    Investigations                       444-7275


    Stetson Hills Division

    General Info                          444-3140

    Duty Desk                             444-3144

    Crime Prevention                444-3168

    Investigations                       444-3146


    General Police Units

    Airport Security                     550-1976
    Community Relations         444-7410

    Crime Stoppers                    444-STOP


    Detective Major Crimes      444-7564

    Metro Vice / Narcotics         444-7766

    Park Police                            444-7708

    Vehicle Impound                 578-6754


     Numbers for Your Information

    Better Business Bureau     636-1155

    Chamber of Commerce      635-1551

    Code Enforcement              444-7891

    County Clerk & Recorder   520-6202

    Colorado Springs Utilities  448-4800


                District / County        448-7700

    Municipal                  385-5922

    Dept. Human Services       636-0000

                Child Abuse 24hr    444-5700

    Domestic Violence Hotline            633-3819

    Drivers License (Dept. of Rev.)

                4420 Austin Bluffs   594-8701

    Drug Hotline                         444-3111

    Explorer Program                 444-7843

    Fingerprint Info                    444-7464

    Fire Dept. Admin.                 385-5950

    Graffiti Removal Hotline     634-5713

    Humane Society                  473-1741

    Jail – CJC                              390-2000

    License Plates                      520-6240

    Mayor                                     385-5986

    Neighborhood Justice        520-6016

    Police Athletic League        444-7618

    Parking Enforcement          444-7706

    CSPD Records                     444-7464

    CSPD Recruiting                 444-7555

    Traffic Engineering             385-5908

    Victim Assistance (DA)       520-6049

    Volunteer Program              444-7441