SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City leaders are responding to a KSL-TV investigative report on crime in the area near the homeless shelter and Pioneer Park. The undercover investigation revealed what appears to be an increase of illegal activity in the area.
City officials acknowledge the problems and that a growing number of people hang around the area. But in spite of all the complaints from business owners and people who live in the area, the police chief says reported crime is down.
The KSL-TV investigation was an eye-opener — open-air drug use and dealing along 500 West, all hours of the day and it's been going on for years.
But this summer, many people in the area of the homeless shelter, Rio Grande Café and Pioneer Park told us it seems to be getting worse. Even police officers on bikes say it is, at times, nearly out of control.
Not only in the state of Utah, but in the Intermountain West. If you want to purchase drugs, this is exactly the location you would go.
–Pete Henderson of the Rio Grande Café
"Not only in the state of Utah, but in the Intermountain West," said Pete Henderson of the Rio Grande Café. "If you want to purchase drugs, this is exactly the location you would go."
Henderson says he's frustrated and fed up.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank says that reported crime is down in the area, compared to two years ago.
"We do have some drug dealing, we do have some criminal activity," Burbank said. "But that's not at a level that's higher than it has been in the past."
According to statistics provided by the Salt Lake Police department, the number of drug cases in Salt Lake City in 2012 was 573. The current number for drug cases in 2013 is 355. Compare that to 1,376 cases reported in 2007 and 183 cases in 2003. But these stats do not measure crime that isn't reported.
The administration acknowledges the growing homeless population. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says the city is committed to programs that assist the homeless, and their efforts to find jobs and housing.
"We're really re-amping (sic) up our city resources to try to stem the tide of what has really been a deteriorating situation in the last few months," Becker said.
This is a complex, multi-dimensional problem and the solution may involve constant vigilance as much as anything else.