SALT LAKE CITY – Violent crime has gone up over 21% in Salt Lake City in 2020, with many incidents connected to the increasing homeless population.
On Thursday, the Pioneer Park Coalition held a public safety meeting to find ways to solve those problems.
US Attorney John Huber pointed to Ogden’s success in tackling crime.
Ogden has lowered its violent crime rate 25% over the past couple of years and overall crime has gone down 30% at the same time.
The city did it by focusing on the worst criminals, ones Huber called “apex criminals”, who were preying on homeless people in a five-mile radius. Those apex criminals were then turned over to federal law enforcement.
“We used federal resources to bring people to federal court where they could get meaningful ramifications, meaningful justice for the wrongs that they’d committed,” Huber said.
Although Salt Lake City is not planning something similar, Huber believes it should be an option.
“How much crime are we willing to tolerate before it starts bringing the rest of us down? As business people, clients, and customers retreat from the Salt Lake City area, who is there to fill that void?” Huber asked.
He also believes slogans like “Defund the Police” are not helpful.
“If we expect law enforcement to do a community-oriented policing strategy where they are trying to invest time and approaches, that takes time and it takes resources,” Huber said.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown pointed out that staffing has become an issue.
Dozens of officers have either retired or resigned this year. Police have also responded to over 200 protests in 2020, which can divert resources.
But he also believes social services will be part of the answer.
“Some of these things we’re trying to fix, like mental health issues [and] addiction, really aren’t crimes,” Brown said. “We’re going to need a lot of help.”
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