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.