SALT LAKECITY – Salt Lake City Police have tripled their presence in the city's troubled Rio Grande district after a recent spike in violent crime in the area.
Officer Nicholas Telles has been on bike patrol for 3.5 years, and Sunday he drove Fox 13 News around the area.
He said observing brazen criminal activity is a daily routine for him.
“That’s common, we, riding through the area and seeing people using drugs or committing crimes right in front of us is an everyday occurrence,” he said.
But he adds that many of the homeless people in the area are grateful for their efforts.
“Constantly people are saying, ‘Hey, thanks for being here, thanks for what you’re doing,’” he said. “Or even pointing us in the direction of crimes that are happening.”
He said that gratitude remains, even when the officers themselves aren’t always a welcome sight.
“They don’t like the violence, they don't like the negative attention, even us, they don’t necessarily like us being here, because if we’re here it puts everyone on edge,” Telles said.
Telles said this increased police presence prevents large groups from gathering, which can help reduce incidents of crime.
“When they have large groups congregating together, that’s where violence stems from generally,” he said. “They’re either fighting over drugs, because of drugs, maybe somebody ripped somebody off, maybe somebody owes somebody money."
And while police are increasing their patrols, they stress they are out there to curb the violence, not to make life difficult for those who call the area home.
“We’re not here to try to get everyone in trouble for every little thing that we can think of, because that’s not beneficial to anyone, I don’t think,” Telles said. “And we’re here basically to calm down a neighborhood that’s seen an increase in violence.”