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Operation Rio Grande Commences With Multi-Agency Arrests

Lee Hale / KUER

A statewide effort to address crime in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood began Monday. “Operation Rio Grande” has three phases that start with large-scale arrests. 

Law enforcement from several agencies descended on the neighborhood Monday morning. A helicopter flew overhead. People in the streets were agitated by the commotion. One man approached police officers and handed over a dirty pipe. He asked Agent Mike Bullock with Adult Probation and Parole to take him to jail. But Bullock says he didn’t have to.

“He’s been smoking some spice,” Bullocks says. “We interviewed him and made sure that he was good to go and had no warrants. Did a quick search of him. Let him know that he has help. That’s what we’re here for.”

Those who were arrested Monday were taken to the Salt Lake County jail where the state has freed up additional jail beds.

Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox calls Monday’s arrests targeted and surgical.

“There has been a tremendous amount of intelligence that has been gathered over the past few days and weeks and months and literally years in some cases to identify the worst of the worst,” Cox says. “The criminal element that has infiltrated this area.”

Last month Governor Gary Herbert convened state and local leaders to address violence and lawlessness in the Rio Grande. He asked Cox to coordinate the effort. Cox says the collaboration is unprecedented.

“We’ve had operations in the past,” Cox says. “This is not a one and done where we come in for a day or two or a week or two. This is a two year operation, sustained presence.”

Phase two of “Operation Rio Grande” will focus on drug and mental health treatment. Cox says the state has yet to secure any additional drug treatment beds but expects to find and fund them in the next couple of weeks. Phase three will focus on creating job opportunities for homeless individuals. 

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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