For half a century, Salt Lake City has debated how to fight crime in and around the 10-acre plot called Pioneer Park that was home to some of the first Mormon settlers, says the Salt Lake Tribune. Officials say crime eradication will come through gentrification as more park visitors, improvements and events push criminals out. Others argue the roots of crime in the area are a lack of social services and a justice system that doesn’t have enough resources to deal with chronic criminals.
Homeless people are often unfairly blamed for the area’s drug problems, said David Thurgood, who retired after 22 years with the Salt Lake City Police Department. Patrick Flemming, director of the county division of substance abuse, said many inmates want residential drug treatment because it can be counted toward their jail sentences. It’s about a four-month wait to enter public-run residential treatment. Salt Lake City Prosecutor Sim Gill advocates a systematic approach to crime in Pioneer Park. He urges boosting the number of people who can enter mental health and drug court programs, where they are provided an opportunity to have their criminal charges reduced or dismissed in exchange for entering intensive, court-overseen treatment. “If we think we can arrest and prosecute our way out of this situation, we’re greatly mistaken,” Gil said.