SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Businesses along North Temple near 800 West say they’re being impacted by an increase in drug dealing and crime in the area. They say the activity that once went on near the homeless shelters has now come their way since Operation Rio Grande started last year.
In recent weeks the Arctic Circle Restaurant closed down, and there is a worry it could start a chain reaction of other businesses closing. River District Chamber Chairman Nigel Swaby said while the area has had the homeless in the past, he notes this is different.
“We have a much bigger problem than that,” said Swaby. “We have a criminal enterprise operating here.”
Salt Lake City Police Detective Greg Wilking said numbers are showing an increase of crime in the area.
“We’ve seen an increase in calls for service, and now we start moving our resources towards that,” said Det. Wilking.
After a reduction in crime near Rio Grande Street, Det. Wilking said they plan to move part of the bike squad to N. Temple to combat the problem.
Swaby and other residents worry the damage has already been done. They worry other businesses could leave the area too.
Open air drug dealing and crime are a common occurrence, much like it was near the shelters before Operation Rio Grande got underway.
SLCPD is looking into leasing space in the area to create a substation for officers to have a more permanent presence in the area.
“We do have to go in and disrupt that and push it around,” said Det. Wilking. “Sometimes we’re chasing it, but that weakens the criminal element.”
Neighbors are hopeful a substation would help deal with the issue. City officials are working out the details and don’t know when that would happen.
Business leaders say the area has a big significance to the city’s image.
“This is the neighborhood you have to drive through to get through to Salt Lake,” said Swaby. “This is not a very good welcome mat right now.”
Police do urge people that if they see suspicious activity or crimes to call and report it.