Public Safety

KUER Local News stories about public safety.

Brian Grimmett

A state task force is considering expanding special court programs into a new Veteran’s Court. Veteran’s courts across the country offer substance abuse help, mental health treatments and other special programs to offenders who have served in the military. For many vets, it’s a welcome alternative to spending time behind bars. Richard Schwermer is the Utah Problem Solving Courts Coordinator. He says help provided by a proposed state veteran’s court would offer a more long-term solution to offenders who are vets.

Brian Grimmett

Little Cottonwood Canyon is open to traffic again after several rockslides blocked the roads this morning. Utah Department of Transportation work crews began clearing the slides from the roads around 3:30 a.m. The major slides occurred about halfway up the canyon and covered the roads with rocks, mud, and debris. At the worst location, runoff water also caused parts of the shoulder to break away from the road. Still, UDOT spokesperson Adan Carrillo says no significant damage was done to the road.

With a handful of wildfires still burning throughout Utah and Colorado, Governor Gary Herbert joined state fire officials this morning to brief reporters on current efforts to control them. 

Firefighters were able to contain fires in Saratoga Springs and Provo last night before they caused major property damage any injuries.  Now they’re focused on a 60-acre fire near the Green River, three fires west of Blanding on Elk Ridge and another on the southwest side of the La Sal Mountains.

Utah State Forester Dick Buehler says suppression crews are out in force. 

Utah Fire Officials Forecast a Difficult Summer

Jun 11, 2013
Map of 2012 Utah Wildfires
Utah Department of Natural Resources

High temperatures and dry conditions have thrust Utah into what could be a difficult fire season. Crews contained the Flood Canyon Fire in Tooele County on Monday and the National Weather Service issued a “Red Flag Warning” for the St. George area over the weekend.

Jason Curry is a Utah State Fire Information Officer. He says because of late rains and higher snow-pack, this summer probably won’t have as many wildfires as last year, but the risk is still above average.

With two high-profile cases in mind, a Utah Lawmaker is drafting a bill to make it easier for a judge to remove children from the custody of a parent who’s a suspected of murdering the other parent. GOP Senator Todd Weiler says his bill would lower the standard of proof the judge needs to make the call.

When Senator Weiler brought the bill to a Judiciary Interim Committee last month, he had in mind the families of missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell and Salt Lake City mom Uta von Schwedler. Schwedler was found drowned in a bathtub in 2011.

Women who live in Salt Lake City are regularly concerned about their safety while getting around town according to a new report released today by the city’s Human Rights Commission and the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights.

The report is called The Status of Women in Salt Lake City. In it are the perspectives of more than 600 women from across the socio-economic spectrum on challenges they face.  Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says a woman’s lens of the world is different from that of a man’s.

Andrea Smardon

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have served in the US Armed Forces, but not everyone who wants to serve can. Some undocumented immigrants in Utah wish they had the opportunity to enlist in the military, and they’re hoping Congress can help. 

Angelica Rodriguez came to Utah just before her sixth birthday from the Mexican state of Veracruz. By the time she was a teenager, her dream was to serve in the US armed forces. She says she wanted to help and protect people, especially during natural disasters.

Pool: Leah Hogsten, The Salt Lake Tribune

Family members say they are shattered by the suicide of Matthew David Stewart, the 39-year-old Ogden man accused of shooting and killing a police officer and injuring five others during a January 2012 drug raid. Stewart was found hanging in his jail cell early this morning.

Attorneys for a man who was shot and killed by a police officer last fall have filed a lawsuit against the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Department for what they claim to be unlawful and unconstitutional use of deadly force.

West Valley City Police are closing the investigation into Susan Cox Powell’s disappearance, but authorities say they will continue to pursue any credible leads should they arise. Susan Powell was last seen at her West Valley City home in December 2009. 

U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah filed a complaint against the state today and obtained a temporary restraining order to stop a law from going into effect tomorrow. They say the new law violates a clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Federal officials are preparing for what is expected to be a challenging fire season this year, specifically in the west. The forecast comes amid diminished federal firefighting dollars as a result of sequestration. 

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the number of fires that have already burned across the U.S. this year are down from last year by about 5,000. But Vilsack warns not to be lulled into a false sense of security. He says droughts continue to plague much of the country and federal budgets are strained.

File: National Law Enforcement Fund

Fallen police Officer Jared Francom’s name is to be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on Wednesday in Washington, DC. Francom was killed as the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force attempted to serve a warrant. Five other officers were injured in a gun battle that ensued. Francom’s family as well as Weber County Attorney Dee Smith is in Washington for the ceremonies. Smith says people should not forget the sacrifices these officers make every day for their community.

Bob Nelson

The University of Utah Academic Senate is reviewing proposed increases in penalties for skateboarders and bicyclists who are not following safety regulations on campus. The University’s Police Chief Scott Folsom says after a professor was injured by speeding skateboarders, concerns arose for the safety of the University community. He says the draft being considered allows first offenders to be warned.

“If they’re caught behaving inappropriately again that there’s a more robust penalty if you will to help discourage continuing non-compliance with the policy,” says Folsom.

Andrea Smardon

A Utah teen accused of punching a soccer referee who later died was charged Wednesday with homicide by assault. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he will seek to try the teen as an adult in the death of 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo. In the meantime, the community is mourning the loss of Portillo at a memorial service and viewing in Salt Lake City. 

A funeral was held last night for the Ricardo Portillo, the 46-year-old soccer referee who died after allegedly being punched in the head by a 17-year-old goalie. Friends and family attended the service dressed in white t-shirts and soccer jerseys to honor Portillo. 

Hundreds trickled into the sanctuary at Our Lady of Guadalupe hoping to pay their respects to Ricardo Portillo. Some paced the halls silently. Some kneeled to pray. Others spoke softly in Spanish as music played.

The 17-year-old soccer goalie who allegedly punched and killed a referee during a game in Utah last month faces a charge of "homicide by assault" and may be tried as an adult.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill sought the charge in a petition filed with a juvenile court Wednesday. Gill is also seeking to have the unidentified suspect certified as an adult.

Saturday was an emotional day for hundreds of people who turned out for the annual Salt Lake City Marathon. But the mood was not one of fear or sadness despite last week’s tragic Boston Marathon bombing. Runners and spectators were in high spirits, paying tribute to those affected by Monday’s blast by wearing bracelets that read “Run Now” and race shirts that read “Running for Boston” on the front and “Keep Running” on the back. 

Dan Bammes

  Runners and spectators will see a lot more security around the Salt Lake City Marathon on Saturday.  After the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, marathon planners developed some new security strategies.  Deputy Salt Lake City Police Chief Terry Fritz says the Utah Highway Patrol, the Utah National Guard and other agencies have brought in additional resources for the race.

Brian Grimmett

At 10:15 this morning tens of thousands of people participated in what is known as the great Utah ShakeOut: a statewide earthquake drill. Here on the University of Utah campus the drill started with a text message from the University Campus Alert system directing us to drop, cover, and hold on. Not long after that another text message alert arrived directing us to evacuate the building and head to our designated assembly point in a nearby parking lot.

Rennly Williams

After the explosions in Boston Monday, one Salt Lake City mother was relieved to find out that her daughter was safe at the Boston Plaza Hotel. But the family is still having trouble getting past the incident.

Rennly Williams says she didn’t see or hear the explosion at the finish line. Her boyfriend Tom Hickenlooper had finished the race 10 minutes before – faster than he expected because of a knee injury. Just a little slower, and he and Williams might have been there for the blast. 

ShakeOut in West Valley

Apr 16, 2013
www.ShakeOut.org

  Communities across Utah are planning for another statewide earthquake drill Wednesday morning – and each one has its own emergency planning issues to deal with. 

West Valley City, for example,  is miles from the Wasatch Fault, but it has unique vulnerabilities.  There are a couple of faults running under the city, and Fire Marshal Bob Fitzgerald says the lake bed soils over most of West Valley could liquefy in a strong earthquake

Brian Grimmett

In the aftermath of the explosions at the Boston Marathon today the Salt Lake City Police Department is clarifying their security plans for this weekend’s Salt Lake City Marathon.

The Salt Lake City Police Department says the Salt Lake City Marathon will proceed as planed this Saturday. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank says they don’t anticipate a need to increase the security presence that has already been planned either.

Bob Nelson

"...again that’s one of the criteria that we have. Criminal activity, hanging with other known gangsters…boom, there you go, he’s a gangster," explains Detective Jamie Cardenas, referring to a Millcreek area rapper who continually denies being a gangster when being questioned by law enforcment. About 300 law enforcement professionals are attending Gangs 101 by Detectives Jaime Cardenas and Zach Emmerick with the Metro Gang Unit of Midvale and Unified Police Department respectively.

Courtesy of the Utah Attorney General's Office

Utah Attorney General John Swallow is encouraging Congress to enact immigration reform.  Swallow is part of a bipartisan group of 35 Attorney Generals who sent a letter to federal leaders calling for reform that improves the immigration system, keeps communities safe and protects borders. 

Swallow says drug crime, identity theft issues, and gangs tied to illegal immigration are threatening Utah’s safety and economy.

Andrea Smardon

A Utah County woman with five young children may be deported to Mexico next week. But her family and community advocates are trying to stop that from happening. They met with representatives from Utah's congressional delegation Wednesday, pleading for help and for immigration reform. 

Brenda Guzman-Sandoval was arrested by Utah County Police on March 20th at her home in Orem.  Her 17-year-old brother Moices Guzman was there.

File: Utah Department of Transportation

The Utah Department of Transportation has been hit by the largest single theft of copper cable in its history. UDOT’s John Gleason says they’re surprised no one noticed thieves at work right along I-15 in North Salt Lake last week.

“They basically stripped out 35-thousand feet of copper wiring, you know that stretches, says Gleason, it spans about the length of a mile, eleven separate tall light poles.”

Gleason says replacing the cables will cost between 50 and 60 thousand dollars so taxpayers are the biggest victims in these thefts.

Utah Transit Authority is set for the grand opening of the Salt Lake Regional Airport TRAX line next month, but before riders can climb aboard law enforcement and emergency management personnel are performing some exercises to prepare for a crisis situation.

Brian Grimmett

A bill that would remove the need to get a concealed carry permit for gun owners over the age of 21 is one vote away from being sent to the Governor’s desk. HB76 received preliminary approval in the Utah Senate today. 

The number of young people in Utah who are going to jail is declining according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kid’s Count Project.  The report shows the decline is about on pace with the majority of the United States. But the progress could be cut short because of budget cuts.

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