Operation Rio Grande shifts into next phase

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Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – We are coming to the end of the first week of a massive effort to clean up crime in Downtown Salt Lake City.

Day five of Operation Rio Grande brings the next step. Friday, officials are launching of the assessment portion of Phase 2.

Drive through the area, and it’s clear. There is a noticeable difference from just one week ago.

“I think if you were to walk the streets, attend the park you’ll see a calm and a change in this area,” said Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, (R) Draper.

Phase 1 of the operation focused on public safety and restoring order. So far, 282 people have been arrested and taken to jail.

Hughes says the increased law enforcement presence is changing what was a lawless environment.

“Something is happening out there right now, and what’s happening is those who were very used to getting drugs at high quantities, because we looked for those high traffic drug users and were able to remove them. As that supply has gone down you’re finding some individuals who are becoming desperate in nature,” said Hughes.

That’s where Phase 2 comes in. It includes initial and clinical assessments, aggressive prosecution with treatment options and referrals to community services.

“The mission of the Department of Human Services, and throughout the counties and cities, for years has been a commitment to triage and address crisis, substance use disorder treatment, mental health illness in the most effective way possible,” said Ann Williamson, Ex. Director of the Department of Human Services.

The challenge is finding enough bed space for all the need. Hughes says they are determined to make it happen.

“We have to be able to take people, and bring them hope and dignity one person at a time. That’s what this phase is, and that’s what’s happening today,” said Hughes.

Phase 3 is creating new job opportunities, and specific training for those opportunities. It will be launched in the coming weeks. 

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Glen Mills

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 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...