More questions and answers are being added on a regular basis. Check back for more information soon.
The primary goal of Operation Rio Grande is to improve public safety in the area. The increased police presence will continue beyond just Phase One of the plan to permanently reduce drug-related and criminal activity in the area. If you live or work in the area, don't hesitate to reach out to the law enforcement officers and introduce yourself. They are partners with the community and look forward to working with you as a team throughout this operation. If you have a crime or incident to report, approach an officer and report it.
The law enforcement portion of Operation Rio Grande is focused on arresting individuals involved in drug trafficking and those with outstanding warrants. At this time, we do not anticipate arresting people for camping or panhandling, but to ensure that individuals engaged in those activities are fully aware of services available to them (like The Road Home shelter). Regular citizens can have the biggest impact on panhandlers simply by not giving them money. Those who want to help should support local service providers instead. Learn more at slchost.org/end-panhandling.
From mid-August to mid-September, the Salt Lake County Health Department will be conducting daily cleanups in the Rio Grande neighborhood, with the goal to reduce waste and materials that may endanger public health and safety. The cleanups have representation of the Police Department, Health Department and Salt Lake City to help ensure the health and safety of all participants, including bystanders. Advance notice of the cleanup and removal of personal belongings is given 24 hours prior, providing people the opportunity to remove their items. Items that are left behind are disposed of. Trash, human waste, syringes and drug paraphernalia are also removed and streets and sidewalks are washed down, as needed.
With increased enforcement in the Rio Grande district, it is anticipated that some people will relocate to other parts of the valley. Law enforcement officials plan to pursue and arrest criminals, even as they move elsewhere. Please report illegal activity to your local police department. For emergencies dial 911.
Operation Rio Grande is a government-led effort, but the input and help of the service providers is essential for the operation's success. Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and other Operation Rio Grande leaders have met with the service providers before and during the operation and will continue to seek their feedback for the duration.
The Road Home shelter that is located on Rio Grande street will be closing in 2019 as part of a long-term plan to shift homeless services to a resource center model. At that time, three new, smaller resource centers will be open in Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake. There are no plans for other service providers in the area to close, though they may adjust how they are providing their services. For example, the Fourth Street Clinic, which provides free health care services to homeless individuals, is planning to operate a mobile clinic to serve the three new resource centers.
Costs for the operation are still being quantified as Lt. Governor Cox, Speaker Greg Hughes, President Wayne Neiderhauser and other Operation Rio Grande leaders work to identify funding from existing sources. Check back at this website for more information as it becomes available.
Being homeless is not a crime, and it will not treated it as such. Our professional post-certified law enforcement officers are operating under clear rules of engagement that comply with constitutional policing practices. Public defenders have been made available to represent those requiring their services. This enforcement action will restore the basic civil liberties of peace and personal security to those who live and work around Pioneer Park and those seeking social services offered in the Rio Grande district.
As Operation Rio Grande moves forward, members of the public can make a major difference to help restore public safety to our city while lifting those in need. For the safety of all, please do not interfere with active law enforcement operations. If you witness a crime or are concerned for someone's safety or your own, call Salt Lake City Police dispatch at 801-799-3000. For emergencies dial 911. A new fundraising effort is now underway to support the three new homeless resource centers that will soon be under construction in Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake. Make a donation today to have it doubled with a match from the Miller Foundation: homelessutah.org. Lastly, please don't support panhandling. For proven ways to help lift individuals experiencing homelessness, please visit the website of the Salt Lake City Homeless Outreach Team, which identifies specific ways that can make a positive difference.