New metro police bureau attacks crime around Pioneer Park

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-15 00:30:48-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Within a few blocks of downtown Salt Lake City, lies the most trouble for the city’s police.

“There are always going to be drug users, drug buyers,” said Det. Greg Wilking of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

From a patrol car, Wilking can spot the crime before it even happens, noting the drug dealers on the move, as well as their buyers waiting nearby.

“There is a core group of people down here that are causing a fair amount of the problems,” Wilking said.

The streets near Pioneer Park and the Depot District have become an all too familiar route for patrolmen over the years, which is why they’ve decided to increase their presence.

Over the last two weeks, the department has reallocated 75 officers there as part of a new bureau, the Metro Support Bureau.  They are tasked with solving a drug and crime problem that only seems to be growing.

“The more presence we have, with more vehicles, the more of a deterrent it is,” Wilking said. “If they don't feel it, if the criminal element that's down here doesn't feel at home, they're going to want to move away from this area.”

The full coverage area of the bureau goes from North Temple to approximately 700 South and from Interstate 15 to State Street.

On Monday afternoon, just off 200 South and 500 West, Officer Dax Shane was making a drug bust to finish out his shift.

“This is my fifth felony arrest today,” Shane said.

This one was for an alleged heroin user. Admittedly an addict of several years, the woman argued she was a victim of much bigger criminals.

“There`s drug dealers who come from other countries and make $7,000 a day here, and they`re going to put me in jail for a year?” she asked.

But Shane countered she is part of the supply and demand chain they`re trying to end.

“She`s engaged in drug activity,” Shane said. “It’s a felony arrest. She`s part of the problem, whether she`s at one end of the ladder or the other.”

The drugs found next to her tested positive for heroin within minutes, and a search underneath a nearby trash barrel uncovered even more.

For officers like Shane, this has become the norm for these few blocks in downtown Salt Lake City, but he`s hopeful it won`t be the area`s future, with a surge of officers working alongside the criminals, stopping the trouble before it begins.

“Me personally, I think we`ll be able to put a dent in it,” Shane said. “I can`t tell you if it`s going to go away or not. I don`t have a crystal ball for that.”