SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah (ABC4) – Utah is seeing a lot of growth on the west side of the Wasatch Front. In places like Saratoga Springs, it may feel like construction is never-ending. So how do their police keep up with the growth? It’s in this edition of Behind the Badge.
Looking out across Saratoga Springs in Utah County, the city is ballooning – rows and rows of homes, endless land under construction, and an ongoing wave of prospective buyers moving in. Since 2012, Saratoga Springs has grown from a population of roughly 20,000 to more than 54,000.
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Andrew Burton said it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in Utah.
Burton is tasked with policing not just his city’s booming population, but that of neighboring Bluffdale. He said helping his staff stay ahead of the constant growth is his biggest challenge.
“10 years ago, we had a total of 24 officers between both cities, now we’re at 45,” Burton said.
Hiring helps, but it’s more than just putting officers on the street. As the city has grown, so has the police workload. Over the last 10 years, calls for service in the area have more than doubled.
The calls include incidents like accidents and traffic complaints. Lt. Zach Robinson, with the division over traffic, said all the city’s extra bodies mean longer lines of cars, and more drivers short on patience.
“They seem like they’re more in a rush, so we end up getting a lot of people running red lights and that kind of thing, which leads to more accidents,” said Lt. Zach Robinson, Saratoga Springs Police, Special Services Division.
“Our day-to-day is definitely busier,” said Sgt. Zach Beglarian, Saratoga Springs Police, Investigations Division.
It’s not just traffic accidents, however. Beglarian told ABC4 that serious calls such as domestic violence, burglaries and sex crimes have also gone up. He said there are days when the Investigations Division is out on the field all day, serving search warrants, investigating or following up on cases, taking suspects to jail or just following up at the jail.
Perhaps their most notable case was January’s deadly police shooting. A man led police on a high-speed chase, that ended with him trying to invade a Saratoga Springs home, pointing a gun at police and officers taking his life.
“Deadly force is the last resort, it’s the last thing that officers want to utilize,” said Burton.
To better handle these calls Chief Burton said they’ve learned to work smarter. Two years ago, officers formed a traffic division to solely keep up with road demand, and on more serious calls each detective is now dedicated to a specific crime to better focus on cases. Then the chief finds funding so they can do those jobs.
“We’re a family here. I’m kind of like the Dad, as the chief, and my officers know that, and we kid around about it sometimes that way, and the dad kind of takes care of everybody in the family to make sure they get what they need,” Burton said.
So as homes keep going up, and more cars crowd the street, Saratoga Springs police said they’re putting the right officers in the right places to keep up with growth that isn’t slowing down.
The police chief said if Saratoga Springs keeps up the pace, they’re on now, in 20 years they expect the population will double again, between 90,000 to 120,000 people.