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Ballpark community meeting pushes police for more action after 3 high-profile crimes

UTA TRAX Station, Ballpark Neighborhood, Salt Lake City, 900 South 200 West, July 8, 2022
Jim Hill
/
KUER
UTA's TRAX station in the Ballpark Neighborhood of Salt Lake City at 900 South and 200 West, July 8, 2022.

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, three high-profile crimes occurred in Salt Lake City’s Ballpark neighborhood.

On Saturday, a shooting on the TRAX platform near 900 S. and 200 W. killed one man and seriously injured another.

On Sunday, a shooting at 1485 S. Major Street severely injured one man. Residents reported hearing dozens of shots fired.

On Monday, Cherokee Brodersen was assaulted near 800 S. Main Street. A man tried to drag her into his car.

Now, the community has had enough. Amy Hawkins, the chairwoman of the Ballpark Community Council, put together an impromptu meeting with local police and community members to talk about the level of crime in the area.

“This is not normal,” Hawkins said. “We want a safe community for everybody who lives here and travels through it and visits here.”

Over the course of an hour and a half on Zoom, residents vented their frustrations.

Dan Thomas, a resident who said he’s been in the neighborhood for more than nine years, believes drug users are to blame. To him, they come to Ballpark because they know they won’t get in trouble.

Others were concerned about sex work and trafficking in the area, wondering if there is trauma-informed policing to help people.

Residents were also concerned about unanswered calls to police and a lack of follow-up information. Wendy Wade, a resident and landlord, said she has lived in the area almost her entire life and has never seen it so bad.

“I actually care, but I feel like the city doesn’t care about me,” Wade said. “When those alleys continue to just sit there the way they are, they flood. They’re full of drugs and crime and prostitution. And I mean, it’s endless.”

This is not the first time police have heard safety concerns related to the Ballpark area. In fact, the council has held meetings like this before.

But police assured community members that the department hears the concerns and has been working to decrease crime for several years. Salt Lake City Deputy Chief Scott Mourtgos said the department is using data to do so.

Mourtgos said analysts looked at crime statistics for the past year. They identified three blocks in patrol divisions that accounted for the most violent crimes. Two of those blocks were in Ballpark — 1400 S. at Jefferson Street and the Gail Miller Resource Center at 242 Paramount.

For the past six weeks, he said the police have assigned officers closer to those streets.

“That’s not call response, that’s proactive. We’re not on a call right now, we’re going to go out and be in this area and be a deterrent and make a difference in that area,” Mourtgos said.

Over the next few months, the Salt Lake City Police Department said it will work with the University of Texas at San Antonio to analyze the department's data and look for new insights they may have missed.

Mourtgos also said it’s important to remember the police are just one component of the criminal justice system.

“We don’t control jails. We don’t control district attorney’s offices. We don’t control sentencing. Those are all factors that also play into problems.”

The Salt Lake Police Department is also slowly employing new officers. It has suffered staffing shortages recently but just graduated 21 new recruits.

Despite the department's new efforts, Hawkins still had reservations.

“I’m concerned, and I think probably lots of us are concerned on this call, that we’re gonna be here in another three or six months having these same conversations,” Hawkins said.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said he’d be happy to come back to talk about progress.

“You’re a partner in this,” Brown said. “I want to ensure those living and those working, those visiting the Ballpark community, that it remains a safe and welcoming community.”

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