SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Hundreds of people showed up Tuesday to hear from state and local leaders about an effort to eradicate crime in the Rio Grande area of downtown.
“Operation Rio Grande” started Monday; officials say 87 arrests had been made in a 24-hour period. The focus isn’t on punishing the homeless — it’s on eliminating the drug trade from Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande area.
“What we don’t want to do is trample on people’s civil rights. What we don’t want to do is make addiction a crime again,” said Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski.
On Tuesday, business owners like Teresa Bowman showed up to hear from Biskupski and other leaders, like Rep. Greg Hughes and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. Her business is just blocks from the Rio Grande neighborhood.
“You want them to see a nice clean city instead of a tent city,” said Bowman.
Bowman says she is hopeful that the efforts underway will lead to positive results for the area and make her customers feel safer.
One critical piece of the puzzle, according to local and state leaders, is treatment beds. 37 are coming on line soon, with 200 more to come in the months ahead for those struggling with drug addiction and mental health issues, according to Mayor Biskupski.
“Hopefully this will be really good program. And she can turn some stuff around. Make it a safer environment for everyone here,” said Bowman.