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Pioneer Park Coalition calls out SLC leaders for “lawless” homeless camps

Pioneer Park entrance in downtown, Salt Lake City (Nick Wyatt, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Pioneer Park Coalition called out the mayor and chief of police for Salt Lake City during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Pioneer Park Coalition challenges Salt Lake City leadership 

In a news release, the Pioneer Park Coalition described the public safety and homelessnesses issues in Salt Lake City as “dire.” 

The release also stated a city should treat people within its limits with compassion but added the city must also ensure a safe and clean place for its citizens. 

“I hear from residents and people who live and work here in downtown Salt Lake City, crying out for help every single day. [They are] saying ‘the crime is out of control. When I call the police, they don’t show up. If they do, it’s four hours after the fact’,” said Pioneer Park Coalition Executive Director Tyler Clancy at the news conference Tuesday. 

Clancy believes there is an obvious disconnect between Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown, and the reality of what happens downtown

“If they don’t think there’s a problem, we really need to highlight that there is,” Clancy said. 

Speakers at the news conference also criticized recently built homeless resource centers. The group said opening more shelter beds is not the solution. 

Utah’s former federal prosecutor weighs in

Former U.S. Attorney for Utah, John Huber, also attended the news conference at Pioneer Park. 

Huber said it might be time for Salt Lake County and the state to get involved to help curb the problem of “lawless camping.” 

“The governor’s office, the legislature, county sheriff, county mayor, county council, and certainly the county attorney,” Huber explained. 

Huber cited complaints from police officers who say they cannot arrest campers because of a lack of available jail space. 

Huber feels the Oxbow Jail in Salt Lake County could be used to house arrested campers. 

“So that we can have an option for law enforcement to hold people accountable for breaking the law,” said Huber. 

The mayor’s office and police department respond

The Salt Lake City Police Department and office of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued statements after the Pioneer Park Coalition news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

The SLCPD said any description of the city using the term “lawlessness” is “wrong.” 

Lindsey Nikola, a spokeswoman for Mayor Erin Mendenhall,  said she understands the coalition’s concern but believes their efforts would be better spent trying to help solve the city’s homelessness issues. 

Salt Lake City police said it stands by its method of dealing with homeless campers. It also believes data showing a 5-year average drop in crime of 4.3% is accurate.