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Police Abandon Traditional "Sweeps" In Favor Of Diversion, Treatment In Rio Grande

Whittney Evans
Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams stands with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, House Speaker Greg Hughes and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Law enforcement officials made 36 arrests Thursday morning outside the homeless shelter in downtown Salt Lake City. But for the first time, many of the suspects were given the option to choose treatment over jail time.

The operation included months of patrols and undercover policing in the Rio Grande Neighborhood.  Salt Lake City and Unified Police have booked into jail people with violent offenses or warrants and have arranged for those who need help with drug and alcohol addiction or mental health issues to receive treatment.  Salt Lake County Sherriff Jim Winder committed extra jail space for this particular event.

“This is an experiment. The citizens should not expect that they wake up tomorrow and this situation is evaporated. What is going on here is hard, diligent work to identify what approaches will work. Some will not.”

Salt Lake City and County are working to identify locations for new homeless shelters and resource centers, which Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski says will spread out the homeless population.

“So the criminal element is easier to spot, track and arrest. And those in need are given the stability they need and deserve.”

City and County officials set aside one-time funding for the operation. When the money runs out, they’re banking on funding from Utah’s small Medicaid extension plan, which still needs federal approval. 

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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