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Violence In Rio Grande Prompts State, Local Leaders To Sort Out Solutions

Nicole Nixon

Following a string of violent incidents near the Road Home Shelter, including two homicides in two days, state and local leaders met to discuss solutions.

A large group made up of state lawmakers, the attorney general, Salt Lake City and County leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert met in a closed-door meeting Wednesday for more than two hours.

They emerged to talk about a plan to deal with violence and drug dealing in the Rio Grande area, but provided few details.

“Anytime you’re dealing with a criminal element, we’re not going to be broadcasting widely the plans to deal with that,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who was appointed as a point person on collaborative homeless solutions going forward.

Cox said it was “not just another meeting,” and the public will see results soon. He put out a warning to drug dealers in the area.

“We’re not going to let them know when we’re going to come and how we’re going to come, but we are going to come,” Cox said, adding that it will become “more difficult” for dealers and criminals in the coming weeks.

Elected officials say the top priority is to open more space in treatment centers and jails.

“All reality is we have to have the jail bed space available in order for us to have an impact in the neighborhood,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “We have to have treatment beds available in order for us to have an impact in the neighborhood.”

Gov. Herbert noted that law enforcement in the area may increase as well.  

“We have cops on the street now. We need more,” the governor said. “That’s going to take some additional resources and funding. There are different buckets of money, some of it’s federal dollars, some of it’s state dollars, some of it’s local.”

The governor called the meeting after two incidents involving homeless people happened over the Fourth of July weekend. This week there have been two murders just blocks from the homeless shelter, which is slated to close in June 2019. 

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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