Police crack down on crime in Rio Grande District of Salt Lake City

Posted at 9:44 PM, Aug 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-28 23:44:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- There are security cameras covering every side of the office at GSBS Architects. Every day, a guard can be found walking the perimeter. It costs company president Michael Stransky thousands of dollars every month, but it’s an expense he believes comes with working in the Rio Grande District of Salt Lake City.

“If our security guard isn’t there, people will be dealing drugs right outside our window,” Stransky said.

The area’s high crime rate is nothing new. Last year, the police department established a new bureau within the neighborhood to address safety concerns from residents and business owners.

Last month, Mayor Ralph Becker announced they would be adding 32 new officers to the area for bike patrols.

“It can’t be a spurt. It has to be sustained,” Stransky said. “I’ll be really happy when I don’t have to spend money to hire a guard to watch my front door.”

According to police, their efforts are working.

In the last 28 days, officers have made 345 arrests, seized $85,000 worth of drugs and recovered 160 stolen shopping carts--representing $56,000 of stolen property.

“Will we ever fix drug dealing? No. But will we make a huge impact? Yes,” said Interim Police Chief Mike Brown.

According to Brown, overall crime in the area has dropped 20 percent in the last month. But that has come with a drawback. As crime has been forced out of the Rio Grande area, it’s moved into other parts of the city.

“We knew that would happen," Brown said. "When you put pressure on an area like we have, we knew that a lot of the organizational crime will move. Every time you move crime, you weaken crime.”

Amidst police efforts, residents and business owners have also been addressing the issues. In the next few months, a commission organized by the city’s mayor will be deciding what to with neighborhood’s Road Home shelter. Many feel it should be moved, while others argue it’s vital that it stays in its current place.

“I don’t think that a stronger presence would solve the problem. I don’t think it’s going to make me feel more comfortable,” said Johanna Pay, an assistant general manager at Cucina Toscana.

Pay has only been working at the eatery for three weeks. But in that time, she’s found the neighborhood’s crime to be problematic for business. In her opinion, the police crackdown is only a temporary fix.

“I don’t think it would resolve the problem,” Pay said. “It makes me feel uneasy, definitely.”

The commission is expected to make a decision on the shelter by the end of the year.