AP NEWS

Denver park where homeless camp closed because of rats

January 15, 2020 GMT
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Officials clear a makeshift homeless camp citing a hazard to health early Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in downtown Denver. More than 30 tents had been put up by homeless individuals in a park across from the State Capitol in the past two weeks. The park is being shut down because officials say it's become infested with rats. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Officials clear a makeshift homeless camp citing a hazard to health early Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in downtown Denver. More than 30 tents had been put up by homeless individuals in a park across from the State Capitol in the past two weeks. The park is being shut down because officials say it's become infested with rats. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — A park across from the state Capitol where homeless people have been camping was shut down Wednesday because officials say it has become infested with rats.

Over 30 tents lined the edge of the park in the morning. Footage from KDVR-TV showed police officers going from tent to tent to let people know they need to leave and campers talking to other city officials looking to find out if they want to take advantage of social services.

Hundreds of rats are currently living in Liberty Park and could spread diseases through their feces and human contact, among other ways, Tammy Vigil, a spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment told The Denver Post.

“The reason the rats are so big is because of all the food that’s left there — all the food waste that’s not thrown away,” Vigil said.

The closure is likely to last weeks, Ann Cecchine-Williams, the department’s deputy executive director, said.

The number of tents in the park grew in recent weeks after a Denver County judge ruled that the city’s urban camping ban amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Police have not been enforcing the ban in the two weeks since the ruling but City Attorney Kristin Bronson has said she planned to tell police to resume enforcement sometime this week.