Business Owners Express Concern about Pioneer Park

Business Owners Express Concern about Pioneer Park

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Sarah Dallof ReportingForty-eight hours after two men were stabbed and their attacker shot and killed by police, business owners near Pioneer Park speak out about the problems associated with their prime locations.

Pioneer Park has a reputation of being filled with drug dealers and many of Salt Lake's homeless. It's a reputation that continues despite numerous efforts to clean up the park. But no one is ready to give up.

Last week Mayor Rocky Anderson and the Salt Lake police department launched a new campaign to crack down on illegal drugs in the park. Days later the violent stabbing and shooting happened. Business owners, though, say they're there to stay.

Since 1998 Big City Soup has been serving their signature soups to Salt Lake faithful while dealing with unexpected and unwanted guests.

Owner Ted Sweetland says, "People will come in and try to get change and use the phone for a drug deal."

Sweetland believes the traffic, which mostly comes from Pioneer Park, has increased in the past few months. "I try to make sure our staff, when we leave at night, stay together, look out for each other," he said.

Just down the street is Filthy Gorgeous, a clothing company that executive director Keith Bryce moved from his studio apartment to the space about a year ago.

Bryce says, "There's a certain quaintness that comes with the space: the boardwalk being next to your neighbors who are also artists. But when you step outside you definitely see a vagrant population."

Bryce says he sees a lot of panhandling and drugs, but that, "if you've ever been to a big city, it's not that bad."

On Wednesday night a homeless man stabbed two men, killing one and critically injuring the other. Salt Lake police shot and killed the attacker. And yesterday our cameras captured yet another example of drug use in the park: a man injecting a woman with an unknown substance, just feet away from police.

Downtown Community Council Chair Christian Harrison says, "You can't smile away the problems downtown. Pioneer Park does have problems."

Harrison lives across the street and feels completely safe. He believes the park's problems are fixable with a combination of law enforcement, more planned community activities like the Farmer's Market and good neighbors like Big City Soup and Filthy Gorgeous.

Sweetland and Bryce also feel the problems at the park are fixable. Both believe the underlying problems of homelessness and mental illness need to be treated. They don't want to see the population just moved to another part of the city.

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