Protecting A Small Community With A Big Heart

Edgewater City Council Member Bill Berg

Edgewater is a small city in the Denver metro area that faces unique policing challenges due to its proximity to neighboring areas with high crime rates. Despite these challenges, the Edgewater Police Department has successfully maintained a close-knit community atmosphere while actively addressing these issues.

Chief Eric Sonstegard describes Edgewater as “The busiest town of 5,000 you will ever see.” Currently, the Police Department consists of only 21 sworn officers who serve as the frontline defense against crime from nearby areas. The fentanyl crisis has contributed to various crime problems, including drug use and property crimes. Auto theft is a major concern, with Denver ranking as the number one city in the country for stolen vehicles. It is almost a daily occurrence for the Edgewater Police to recover stolen cars along the Sheridan corridor.

Chief Sonstegard has big plans to tackle these issues head-on. He helped the agency identify the three Edgewater Police Department priorities for 2023: Community Safety, Neighborhood Engagement and Employee & Organizational Wellness. Through license plate identification systems, the Police Department has specialty cameras to identify stolen vehicles and suspected car thieves. Additionally, the chief plans to expand community policing programs by the implementation of a Community Service Officer and the creation of a Neighborhood Policing Officer position to assist with continuing community outreach programs.

One significant challenge faced by the police department is the nationwide shortage of law enforcement personnel. Hiring new officers and retaining the current team would allow more time for positive community engagement. Despite these staffing challenges, the officers remain dedicated to serving the community, resulting in impressive response times and a safe environment. The small-town vibe of Edgewater is reflected within the police force itself. Chief Sonstegard leads by example, often working Saturdays in uniform and participating in city events. The officers work collaboratively, openly sharing their thoughts, perspectives and experiences, fostering understanding and empathy among the team and the community they serve.

I had the opportunity to spend time with some of our Edgewater police officers during recent ride-alongs. Officer Derek Stakley embodies community policing, treating people with respect and taking the time to learn the names of local business owners. Officer Suzie Altman also expressed her appreciation for working in Edgewater, highlighting the support system that makes it a great place to work. During the night shift, she faces challenges such as addressing safety concerns related to the transient population and limited resources during late-night shifts. However, she finds creative ways to implement community policing strategies, such as responding to residents’ safety concerns via email and personally following up on previous calls.

Chief Sonstegard has a professional goal for the department: “If our residents or business owners had the choice to call any police department in Colorado, they would choose to call us.”

We want community members that feel confident and comfortable when calling Edgewater PD. I know I do.

Bill Berg is an Edgewater City Councilmember. 

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