Fox 13 exclusive: New plan to shape up Rio Grande District revealed

Posted at 6:11 PM, May 17, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City's Mayor and Police Chief have a plan to clean up the beleaguered Rio Grande neighborhood, where drug dealers hide amidst the homeless population and businesses suffer from the stigma.

Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Chief Mike Brown invited Fox 13 on a walking tour of the area to point out the changes they plan to implement, and to publicize their plan as they work to sell it's $2 million-plus budget to the city council.

Brown pointed out spots along 500 West where police hope more cameras will discourage crime.

"We would like to put in four cameras that traverse the 500 West cameras," Brown said. "They would have signs saying, 'this is under surveillance.'"

Mike Reberg, Salt Lake City Director of Community and Neighborhoods, described plans to tear up a landscaped median and add parking for police cars. Reberg said the landscape rocks provide cover for drug sales and use.

"It will act as a disruptor," he explained. "Right now it's a key area where drug dealers and the homeless population converge."

The mayor touted the city's ongoing effort to concentrate police and social workers in the area, focusing on diverting addicts and the mentally ill to programs that can help them rather than sending them to jail.

Last year, Biskupski said 6,300 people have gotten help through the program.

"It also speaks volumes about how the homeless are understanding there`s opportunity to get some help," Biskupski said.