SLC residents say homeless population brings drugs, hygiene issues to local park

Posted at 10:16 PM, Aug 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 00:16:31-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City residents said they are fed up with a jump in homelessness and crime at a small local park.

Several neighbors of Richmond Park, off of 600 South near 400 East, said they’re witnessing drug use, and public urination or defecation in the park.

They also said the park’s been littered with garbage and drug paraphernalia. Thursday afternoon, several people hung out aimlessly at Richmond Park for hours.

“There's different groups, and they kind of scatter themselves around the park,” said Rhianna Riggs, who lives nearby.

It’s not necessarily the presence of the groups that’s bothersome. It’s what neighbors said they are witnessing those groups doing that has them at their wit’s end.

“When they start using the playground as a restroom, and start dumping dirty needles and other things around the park, then it becomes hazardous,” said Michael McLane, who also lives near Richmond Park.

He said he and his neighbors have seen it all, and now, they’re cleaning it all.

“My neighbors and I were cleaning up needles,” McLane said. “I was finding crack pipes behind my house. We were cleaning up human waste and used tampons and all kinds of things.”

While at the park Thursday afternoon, a couple of people didn’t like seeing the FOX 13 News camera.

"Get that camera off of me!" yelled one man, as our crew filmed the public space from a distance.

One woman approached the crew, speaking in a way that concerned McLane enough that he called the police to report harassment and threats.

“That was a little bit more dramatic than what you normally see around here,” McLane explained of the incident.

Nearby, a mom showed up with her two daughters, and they began playing at the playground—the same one McLane and others said the groups use as their bathroom.

“It's really scary,” Riggs said of the activity she sees. “I've lived here for seven years, and it's never been this bad.”

She said they’ve complained to Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s office and Salt Lake City Police.

The Mayor’s office responded, she said, and explained that they increased police patrols and the parks department has begun to clean the park regularly.

Salt Lake City Police said they’ve responded to a jump in calls at the park, and make it a point to patrol. That includes kicking would-be campers out at night.

“We’re doing everything we can, both from a patrol officer standpoint and also from a bike officer standpoint,” said Detective Cody Lougy. “We’re hearing the complaints from the citizens.”

It can be a cycle, he said. Police respond to the call, give warnings or citations, leave, and it starts again.

Ultimately, hanging out in the park during the day is not a crime, and there isn’t much police can do.

Det. Lougy said the best step neighbors can take is to call the police frequently when observing criminal behavior.

He added that Salt Lake City is taking steps to break the cycle across the city, including the recent opening of the Community Connection Center (CCC).

The CCC, according to the city, provides short-term therapy and crisis intervention, and helps find people jobs and transportation.

While there is no clear answer, McLane and Riggs said they noticed the city’s steps.

“Just in the past week I have noticed that people are no longer sleeping in the park,” Riggs said.