Cleanup begins for Operation Rio Grande

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) Crews from the Salt Lake County Health Department brought in front-end loaders and dump trucks to clean up what’s left behind after Operation Rio Grande Wednesday.

“There are still things that need to be taken care of whether it be large debris, human waste or syringes,” Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp said.

Soda bottles, shoes, bicycles and even teddy bears left behind where tent cities once ruled. 

Police closed several downtown roads for crews to shovel discarded trash that is then quickly picked up and sent to the dump. 

“We don’t want to remove anything that people need, people want. It is really just about the abandoned items that could pose a threat to public health,” Rupp said.

The cleanup isn’t a surprise. Signs were posted for days, warning that anything left behind after 8 AM on Wednesday, will be confiscated. 

Police then went person to person, reminding them to pack up their belongings while also offering help. 

“We are not necessarily bothering them or looking for crimes. We are reaching out to them on a personal level and letting them know there are these resources,” Salt Lake City Police Officer Rick Wall said.

The sweep comes after nearly 90 people were arrested on the first day of Operation Rio Grand, which targeted drug dealers and other law breakers. Now, crews zero in on what they left behind. 

“What we’ve found is that, you know a lot of people have gone to get the help that they need, some people frankly have just left for whatever reason and they’ve left a lot of unclaimed property,” Officer Wall said.

Several people who are homeless told ABC4 Utah off-camera that they’re not happy with the clean up and aren’t sure where they will go.

The Salt Lake County Health Department makes an effort to clean up the Rio Grande neighborhood at least once a month. 

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