Local law enforcement executed a second round of targeted arrests in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood today. As with the previous roundup, many of those taken into custody got to choose between jail or treatment.
Forty-three people were pulled from Salt Lake City streets Tuesday morning as part of what’s being called “Operation Diversion”. That’s in addition to the 49 arrests that took place during last Thursday’s operation. About half of those people are choosing treatment over potential prosecution.
Salt Lake County Sherriff Jim Winder says the arrested meet with public defenders and are screened for treatment options.
“They are ushered in, not in handcuffs and allowed to make a decision,” Winder says.
It’s the same decision, Winder says drug dealers and addicts would have historically made only after spending months in jail.
“Do you want to really make a change in your life? Are you sick of living under a tarp? Are you sick of prostituting yourself? Are you sick of stealing to survive? Are you sick of alienating yourself from all of your family? And are you willing to begin the very difficult road of recovery? And if you are, here it is, right now,” Winder says.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is monitoring the operations as they unfold to ensure due process rights are maintained. Anna Brower Thomas is with the ACLU.
“We are really heartened by the things we have heard from providers who have accepted people into their treatment beds,” Thomas says. “This is a little bit of a step more toward recognizing this is a public health issue. Let’s try to deal with that aspect of it.”
“Operation Diversion” is a collaboration between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County governments. More of these operations are expected to continue until funds run out.