SALT LAKE CITY – Home burglaries are on the rise in some parts of Salt Lake City, and some believe Operation Rio Grande may be a contributing factor.
“People are feeling afraid and rightfully so,” said Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Council Member.
Mendenhall oversees District 5, which extends from I-15 to 1300 East and 2100 South to 900 South.
In the past 28 days, she’s seen an alarming trend. From September 18th to October 29th, 44 residential burglaries were reported. In 30 of those cases, Salt Lake City Police have zero suspect information.
“Crime is down but when we see residential burglaries go up we should be alarmed and we should act quickly,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall says a big deterrent had been missing during this uptick in burglaries. She recently learned that bike patrols dedicated to her district had been shifted to assist with Operation Rio Grande.
“We want to see an increased police presence on the bikes especially, because what you see when you're moving slowly on the street is different from what you see in a patrol car," she said.
Detective Robert Ungricht with the Salt Lake City Police Department said they’ve seen an increase in residential burglaries, and, as of three weeks ago, they have reallocated bike patrols back to District 5.
Police use a program called Compustat to monitor hot spots so they can take immediate action.
“If we start seeing a trend, then we can reallocate resources to address that problem," he said.
Mendenhall is grateful police are stepping up patrols, but she also wants city leaders to address ways to mitigate the impact of Operation Rio Grande, at least as it’s perceived on Liberty Park.
“It's utilized by more residents than any other park is, so when we see crime and camping increase in the park it is of specific concern to me and it should be to our mayor and our police department too," she said.
Police argue that it’s not fair to blame the rise in crime on people experiencing homelessness.