SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah)- The first phase of the plan to cleanup downtown Salt Lake City launched Monday morning.
“Operation Rio Grande” is the plan to restore public safety in the Rio Grande district.There are three different phases to the plan. Phase 1 utilized 100 officers in attempts to disrupt drug trafficking and arrest dangerous criminals.
Randall Carlisle walked the Rio Grande area after the operation began:
“Today is all about getting the worst of the worst out of that area and off of the streets,” Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said.
Lt. Gov. Cox said Phase 2 will focus on assessment and treatment for these people. Phase 3 will help them get back on their feet.
“This is not a crackdown as has been said, this is targeted and very surgical,” said Lt. Gov. Cox. “There has been a tremendous mount of intelligence that has been gathered over the past few days and weeks and months and literally years in some cases to identify the worst of the worst, the criminal element that has infiltrated this area.”According to Salt Lake’s district attorney those arrested won’t be getting out easily.
“Those individuals who are going down there and have had a free playground to prey upon and be predatory, we’re going to actually communicate in the most aggressive way that that kind of behavior is coming to and end now,” said Sim Gill.
House Speaker Greg Hughes said the arrests will not be confined to the homeless shelter. He said if drug dealers move elsewhere, police will follow their trail.
“We recognize that we need to change the culture around addiction and mental illness,” said Lt. Gov. Cox who offered details about phase two in which treatment will become available.
He said not all of those arrested will end up behind bars. Under Operation Rio Grande, those arrested will be assessed to determine is treatment is a better approach. The Lt. Governor Cox said 36 beds will soon become available for those seeking help and another 200 beds will be added over the course of Operation Rio Grande.
Speaker Hughes shared one story he came across with the arresting officers Monday.
“A member walked up to law enforcement, emptied out his pockets of the drugs he had, the paraphernalia and he said ‘I need to be arrested, I need help, I need out of here,'” Hughes said during a press briefing.
In phase three, the goal is to find jobs and offer retraining.
“We call this the dignity of work piece to get people back on their feet,” said Lt. Cox.State leaders call phase three a critical piece of Operation Rio Grande. Lt. Cox said private and public partnerships will be created to help with job coaching and training.“Utah more than any place in the world, we believe in helping and caring for the less fortunate,” said Lt. Gov. Cox. “That is what Operation Rio Grande is all about.”
In terms of costs, Lt. Governor Cox said those numbers are still being determined. He said the state legislature will be addressing those costs at the next legislative session.
Here’s a breakdown of the three phases:
Watch the full press conference with city leaders here: