Salt Lake hopes new police substation will be a home run, but will it knock crime out of Ballpark?

City employees place a Salt Lake City Police Department decal on the door of a new police substation at Smith's Ballpark Thursday.

City employees place a Salt Lake City Police Department decal on the door of a new police substation at Smith's Ballpark Thursday. (Carter Williams, KSL.com)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Police spent about a year searching for the right location for a new substation aimed at combatting the rising crime in the Ballpark neighborhood, according to Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown.

As the search continued, it became increasingly clear that there is no place like home plate.

Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall on Thursday jointly announced that Smith's Ballpark will be the location of the first of "several" new police substations in the city.

"There is no better spot to have this substation than at the heart of the Ballpark community, right here at the ballpark," Brown said. "As they say in baseball, we've loaded the bases and we're ready to knock it out of the park."

The office space at the ballpark, located along the first base line, is designed to be a place for officers assigned to the neighborhood to cool off, take lunch breaks or get ready for their day. It will allow them to do that while they stay in the area as much as possible so that they can respond to crime as fast as they can.

The mayor said it will also serve as a "visible deterrent to criminals" in the neighborhood and a reminder to residents and business owners that officers are in the area.

"Officers will be coming and going 24 hours a day from this substation, patrolling the neighborhood and able to quickly respond to developing situations," she said. "This is about Salt Lake City meeting a continually evolving need of our residents, our neighbors and our businesses in our capital city and this community, in particular."

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown shakes hands with Salt Lake Bees general manager Marc Amicone outside of Smith's Ballpark Thursday morning. The ballpark is the home of a new police substation.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown shakes hands with Salt Lake Bees general manager Marc Amicone outside of Smith's Ballpark Thursday morning. The ballpark is the home of a new police substation. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

Through the end of July, overall crime in Salt Lake City's District 5 — which includes the Ballpark neighborhood — is down about 1% from the five-year average and 7.4% from the same point last year, according to public police department data. However, violent crime is up 11% from last year and 38.5% above the five-year average.

While not included in the reports, Mendenhall said domestic violence is up over 40% in the area, which is driving many of the violent crimes.

Burglary, among the nonviolent crimes, is also up 11% from last year and 18% from the five-year average. Drug crimes are up 4% from last year, though down 23.5% from the five-year average. There have already been 468 of those types of cases in the district, or about 2.2 per day.

With 68 reports through the end of July, weapons crimes are up 33% from last year and 58% from the five-year average.

A rash of particularly violent instances over the July 4 weekend inspired the Ballpark Community Council to hold an informational meeting with Salt Lake police.

The substation will be primarily used by the department's Liberty Bike Squad, according to Brown. The team, he said, is making a difference, saying they recently "hit a home run" when their work in the community generated tips that helped police arrest a pair of wanted fugitives who were living in the area. One individual was wanted on few counts of aggravated robbery, while the other was an escaped federal prisoner.

Salt Lake City employees place a Salt Lake City Police Department decal on the door of a new police substation at Smith's Ballpark Thursday morning.
Salt Lake City employees place a Salt Lake City Police Department decal on the door of a new police substation at Smith's Ballpark Thursday morning. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

But not all residents and business owners in the area are sure that the substation will help.

As the press briefing came to a close, Robert Danielson jumped in to ask the mayor a question about exactly how the substation will deter crime in the neighborhood. He was one of a few people with ties to the community who came to voice their frustration with crime in the area.

Some residents argue that the data can be misleading because not every crime is reported or uncovered. Danielson, who owns a business a few blocks west of the ballpark, viewed Thursday's event as "almost insulting" because he's seen crimes unfold in the neighborhood on a regular basis. He said he's thankful for the officers who do patrol the streets; however, he says an offender who is arrested can quickly be released and end up back on the streets.

"Are we allocating more officers here? We're not. They're already in the neighborhood, so to the citizens of the community, this just looks like nothing more than a sign on a door," Danielson told KSL. "I don't think we're addressing the systematic problem in this city, and obviously nobody could give me an answer other than 'officers need to eat and officers need to cool down.' ... I want a plan. I want a plan that's tough on crime."

Mendenhall contends that it's difficult for a substation to reach some of the crimes in the area, especially domestic cases. One of the things the city is looking into is new tactics to reduce domestic violence crimes, using training from other organizations in the country.

She agrees that slapping a police sticker in the area won't solve the long-term problem.

"Signs only work for so long. It's people and presence that make a difference," she said, adding that the officers who already spend most of their time in the community will be to spend more time making those connections.

Only time will tell if the new substation will pay off.

The mayor didn't reveal many details of the other police substations the city plans to add. City officials say they are finishing up details on leasing out spaces with private companies. There are at least two more substations that will be "strategically placed" in areas with higher police presence needs that will be announced in the coming weeks, Mendenhall added.

Meanwhile, Smith's Ballpark is close to the center of two revitalization campaigns aimed to improve the neighborhood in the coming years, which may help reduce crime in the neighborhood, too. One of those is Ballpark Station Area Plan that the Salt Lake City Council will soon vote on, according to Councilman Darin Mano, who represents the district.

"The Ballpark neighborhood you see today will be transformed over the next few years, and we're headed for incredible things," he said. "This investment in public safety is a critical step in obtaining those goals."

Related stories

Most recent Salt Lake County stories

Related topics

UtahSalt Lake CountyPolice & Courts
Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast