SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s west side has been plagued with an onslaught of criminal behavior.
Areas along North Temple have seen criminal activity driven into the area and for well over a decade, there have been problems.
FOX 13 has extensively covered issues that have impacted the area such as Operation Rio Grande, crime issues, murders and everything in-between. In addition, there have been attempts to combat crime in the area with the introduction of downtown ambassadors and other initiatives.
“North Temple needs our help," Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said while speaking to reporters on April 6, 2021.
That same day Police Chief Mike Brown said, “Make no mistake, if you are a predatory criminal, if you are down here to sell dope in our community... they will find you and they will arrest you.”
Police and the city pledged a fix that day and now the area, according to those who live there, has seen a decent improvement.
“A lot a lot, at least today, it's a lot a lot cleaner even with the TRAX everything” Alex Serrano said. Serrano has worked on North Temple managing a restaurant for 17 years and just opened one of his own called LOVE N.T. Coffee.
“All these years working here - it's in my heart,” he said.
FOX 13 had spoken with him before about the new business that was just able to open after the previous tenant moved out due to crime in the area.
Fair Park Community Council Chair, Nigel Swaby is one person who is involved in revitalizing the area.
“I have always seen North Temple as the gateway to Salt Lake City. If you come in on TRAX from the airport, you drive in from I-80 this is the neighborhood you go through.” Swaby said.
Despite the efforts of many programs and promises from elected leaders, crime in this area is still prevalent.
The problems are now in the hands of the Salt Lake City Police Department. On October 19, FOX 13 had an exclusive first-hand look at one of the undercover operations they are doing to try and combat crime in the area.
“We have officers dress down and go into these areas of concern” Sgt. Mark Wian with the Salt Lake City Police Department explained.
The officers target drug dealers by dressing in plain clothes and approaching people along North Temple in an attempt to buy drugs.
Once that officer has given a signal, marked units waiting around the corner move in and take the dealers into custody.
The police department targets the dealers, but stays clear of users.
"Why is it important to take the dealers off well you hit it on the head when you asked me the question," Wian said "The addiction is an illness so if we can stop those that are preying on the most vulnerable and is supplying them with something that's not helping.”
The areas officers target include:
- Madsen Park, just a block off North Temple on N Chicago St.
- A 7/11 at 1000 W and North Temple.
- Pioneer Park, a long-time problem spot downtown.
Five minutes into the operation police found two dealers, made a deal at Madsen Park, and officers moved in after their signal. In just two hours, officers arrested five drug dealers and found needles full of drugs, pipes, money and drug paraphernalia.
Also during the operation, in a tense moment for police, a wanted sex offender with warrants was captured after a foot chase.
“We are aware of people who are wanted for various things for example the person who was not adhering to the requirements of being a registered sex offender and had become non compliant,” Sgt. Mark Wian said. “We have to be observant on not getting so focused on one thing because there are so many other things out here that can alert us to criminal activity.”
Although the job can be dangerous, Wian said it's all in order to try and keep the community just a little bit safer.
“The best part about these operations is identifying those dealers recognizing that criminal activity and holding them accountable.” Wian said.
These operations are for those like Alex Serrano who shared his vision of the future of North Temple with FOX 13 saying “I want to make sure people all people they can walk through this street North Temple without being in any danger.”
That’s a vision of the future that the Police Department hopes to bring for all those who live in the community.
“We take pride in what we do here and serve the members of our community,” Wian said. “I hope you having literally a firsthand view of that, that you can be rest assured we address our community concerns, we hold people accountable, we take every complaint seriously.”