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After Operation Rio Grande, other jurisdictions are left with ongoing cleanups

Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 19:59:30-04

SOUTH SALT LAKE - The city of South Salt Lake feels like it's inherited many of the problems of homelessness that Operation Rio Grande pushed out of Salt Lake City's downtown.

Operation Rio Grande is the cooperative effort between state, county and city leaders aiming to clean up crime and vagrancy in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City.

"We've seen a huge increase of illegal encampments since the onset of Operation Rio Grande," said Chief Jack Carruth of the South Salt Lake Police Department.

Carruth took Fox 13 on a tour of several homeless camps along the Jordan River in his city. It was an area they had cleared of eight camps just six weeks ago.

In those six weeks, even more camps popped up.

"We have a count of 21 camps, and I'm going to estimate we have 25 to 30 thousand pounds of trash," Carruth said.

Jamie Pluta, Community Cleanup Coordinator with the Salt Lake County Health Department, said the camps are a health hazard.

"We can't have people camping illegally because we have a lot of environmental degradation and biological waste," Pluta said.

The biological hazards include human waste along with drug paraphenalia, according to Pluta, who said she goes out on a similar cleanup about once a week.

Both Carruth and Pluta said they mobilize volunteers and employees to connect homeless campers to resources before each cleanup.