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Salt Lake City to focus more on safety along North Temple

(Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, at podium, standing near the member of the Downtown Ambassadors, who will patrol North Temple. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY – Salt Lake City leaders say they’re putting more of their resources into the safety of businesses and homeowners of North Temple. People who live nearby say crime and homelessness are taking over, and they’ve been asking for help from the city for a long time.

Resident Steven Rivera lives along 300 North, and he says he witnesses crime and drug use all the time. He claims addicts leave used drug needles all over North Temple and surrounding streets, and he doesn’t believe it’s safe.

“I feel bad for my kids because I don’t want them to go outside.  It drives me nuts,” he said.

Rivera cried as he spoke to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, describing how he has lived in the area his entire life and attended public meetings about improving the neighborhood, but, nothing seems to change for the better.

“It’s frustrating because we call the police all the time when we see it. It’s an hour or two later [when the police arrive], and when they come out, it’s gone,” Rivera said.

Mendenhall said people like Rivera are the reason they’ve expanded their Downtown Ambassador Program to patrol along North Temple on the city’s west side. 

(Three members of the Downtown Ambassadors on patrol. Credit: Paul Nelson)

She told Rivera, “I want you to stay in this neighborhood. I want your kids to feel safe, here.”

The program is sponsored by the Downtown Alliance, and it’s aimed at helping business owners and residents, plus it helps homeless people find the resources they need. Officials report the ambassadors have performed over 6,500 wellness checks on people in the downtown area, referred over 1,400 people to resource centers and they’ve saved 184 people by administering naloxone during an opioid overdose.

Six new ambassadors have been hired to serve North Temple, and Red Iguana owner Lucy Cardenas believes they’ll be a big help for people living and working nearby.

“Every day, I see people suffering in this neighborhood,” Cardenas said.

The mayor said developers have an idea to revitalize the area, but the methods they normally use to spark those upgrades just aren’t working along North Temple. Police Chief Mike Brown said their bike squads have seized a lot of drugs, guns and recovered stolen cars, recently.

Brown said, “From January of 2021 to April, so in three months, the Pioneer bike squad has arrested 86 individuals on felony charges.”

The new ambassadors will roam the street Monday through Saturday.