SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) It is finally underway! That promised crackdown on lawlessness around the downtown homeless shelter.
The first phase of “Operation Rio Grande” began at 9 Monday morning. The general, the man who pushed for this operation, stood on the corner of 200 South and Rio Grande and watched as more than a hundred federal, state, county and city law officers moved in.
General Greg Hughes, Utah’s House Speaker, watched for a few minutes without comment before he headed up to the Capitol to brief reporters on the 3 phases of the operation which will run for 2 years.
Phase one, covered by ABC4’s Randall Carlisle, involves that massive task force of law officers sweeping through the area.
They are not busting the homeless for just sitting or lying there. Carlisle learned that there have been undercover operations underway for several weeks as officers identified the major drug dealers and criminals in the area. Monday they targeted perhaps as many as 90 dangerous criminals and they were looking for them.
They were also there to help. Carlisle observed one Salt Lake City officer arresting a known drug user, an elderly lady. He asked her before putting on handcuffs “how come you didn’t get into the treatment program that I recommended for you?”
For many of the homeless it was just another day. They sat on the street observing the action almost like watching a real life cop show.
People who live and work in the area are no doubt greeting the operation with jubilation. They’ve been calling for something like this for years.
There was mixed reaction from the homeless. Josh Chadderdon told ABC4, “It sucks. I am actually pro drugs. I dance and I use, but I don’t hurt anybody.”
Kelly Rhees, who’s been homeless for years, had a big smile on her face. “I think it’s great and they need to do more.”
This is not a one day event. State leaders told Carlisle that the operation will continue for the next two years until the downtown Road Home Shelter closes it’s doors for good.
Here’s a breakdown of all three phases: