SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Salt Lake City has 100 parks covering 735 acres, and the crime at city parks is bringing up a big question for residents.
Carolyn Crawley asks, “Am I going to be safe at my home?”
Crawley and Brett Matesen are moving into a home across from Jefferson Park.
“It is not somewhere I would spend time in. I wouldn’t go with our grandkids across there to play. It’s usually full of transient people, people doing drug deals or sleeping during the middle of the day,” says Crawley.
The two say transients use their yard as a toilet, and they clean up what they call drug kits daily.
“Last week we had an individual break in, well a group of individuals break into our home, of which one individual would not leave until the police came,” says Matesen.
Salt Lake City Police continue to run from call to call. Chief Mike Brown says calls for service are up 29 percent.
“It should be noted that a lot of the calls do originate from the various parks,” says Chief Brown.
In an ongoing undercover investigation at two city parks, Chief Brown says officers seized 793 grams of meth, 501 grams of heroin, and more than $5,300 worth of cash.
The department needs to fill 51 vacancies, with 19 officers expected to start on the streets around the New Year.
During a Salt Lake City Council Work Session, District 5 Councilmember Darin Mano asked a clarifying question to Chief Brown, “So we are understaffed by 97 still? Am I understanding that correctly with officers that can actually respond to calls?”
Chief Brown replies, “Yeah, the 51 vacancies are not here to take calls, and then there are 41 officers that are in the academy.”
District 4 Council Member Ana Valdemoros wants to outsource the public safety efforts at city parks.
“There are pressing issues with crime in our parks,” she says. “You know if the trend continues as is, I feel like we might need to do that until we are able to hire more people. The calls continue happening, crime is still out there happening, so I would be in favor of looking at funding to outsource temporary so our residents can feel safe in the parks.”
Cheif Brown says many departments face the same issues as Salt Lake City.
Until more officers become available, there is one thing the council can do according to the Chief, “Tell your constituents to be the very best partner they can for us because through their eyes and ears they really help us identify problems.”