Police are cracking down on criminal activity within an area downtown of Salt Lake City frequented by the homeless after receiving numerous complaints from residents and businesses.
The "order maintenance" operation this week in effect, a surge of police presence focuses on an area bounded by 300 West to 1500 West and 200 North to 600 South. The area includes Pioneer Park and numerous shelters and other services for the city's transient population, but Police Chief Chris Burbank stressed the crackdown was not targeting the homeless, per se.
"Unfortunately, there is a criminal element all too willing to use the homeless population downtown to mask their activity, which is rising along with spring's warmer weather," Burbank said. "Our goal is to deter the activity and assure people in the area that the issues are being addressed."
Police are acting after numerous reports about drug dealing, prostitution, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, jaywalking, and other public safety issues.
"We've done this before, the last time in 2011 along Main Street," SLCPD Det. Dennis McGowan said. "We've had lots of complaints from citizens, businesses and passers-by. This is an increased police presence, beyond just our usual bicycle officers and patrol units that we have down there."
The operation began Monday, and by Wednesday had resulted in 21 felony arrests, two class A misdemeanor arrests, 23 other misdemeanor citations and six referrals to medical and drug outreach programs.
McGowan said officers would continue working the area through Friday, distributing warning notices for minor infractions and making arrests for more serious crimes.