SLC leaders ramp up public safety in Rio Grande area to fight crime

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jul 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-29 00:26:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Drugs, violent crime and the issue of homelessness are problems Salt Lake City leaders have been trying to tackle for years.

On Tuesday the mayor and interim police chief announced new strategies they say will improve the Rio Grande area.

“We're letting everyone know if you come down here to deal drugs, if you come here to buy drugs you can expect to end up in jail,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.

It has been the message time and time again.

“I will not allow the criminal element to thrive down here,” said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

But those living on the streets near the Rio Grande and 500 West say that's exactly what has been happening.

“It kinda blew my mind. They're smoking crack right in front of the Road Home, they're shooting up right in front of you and they don't even care it's kind of overwhelming at first,” said Shawn Payne who has been living on the street.

Salt Lake City officials say they will now be changing their approach on how to deal with the safety issues in that area.

“We are going to be increasing our effort in a way we're determined it will make a difference,” Becker said.

New strategies involve increasing law enforcement in the area. Now 32 bike officers are dedicated to the spot around the clock.

“The way it was set up we didn't have the bike squad who could be there the whole time they were chasing patrol cars also,” Brown said.

Police acknowledge they can't arrest their way out of the problem.

Dedicated caseworkers will now join their force to connect with those living on the streets.

“Hopefully we can come together rather than duplicate work, we can be source multiplier,” Brown said.

To help nearby businesses a non-emergency line is open to report any concerns. It’s something business owners say they will use on a daily basis.

“It's just kind of exploded this year by a magnitude of three or four times,” said Justin Bell President of CCG Howells.

These new strategies went into effect on July 12. Business owners hope it will decrease the homeless population.