Salt Lake City’s crime plan is designed to target violent crime like Dallas

The second phase of Salt Lake City’s violent crime plan, developed with Texas researchers, is now underway.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Police Commissioner Mike Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announce a new violent crime prevention plan on Monday, October 10, 2022. Officials announced on Wednesday that the second phase of the plan would begin

Salt Lake City is moving forward with the second phase of its violent crime plan, which will use “creative thinking” to help make violent crime hot spots safer, officials announced Wednesday.

The city’s violent crime plan was unveiled last year. The first phase was to increase Salt Lake City’s police presence in areas of the city where data indicated crimes were most likely to occur.

Now the city itself is targeting these hot spots to improve underlying conditions that can help fuel crime, such as: B. dim lighting on sidewalks or traffic patterns that block access for cars and pedestrians – both of which can make areas less visible to witnesses.

identify hotspots

Salt Lake City’s violent crime plan was developed in collaboration with researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio. University criminologist have implemented similar plans in Dallas; San Antonio; and Tacoma, Washington.

“The data we have provides valuable insight into crime patterns and trends,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Wednesday.

Year-to-date, overall crime in Salt Lake City is down about 15%, Mendenhall said, and violent crime is down 7%. But in the past, officials said police calls generally increase in the summer and drop in the colder months. Therefore, the second phase of the plan begins now.

This plan specifically targets “violent street crime,” including murder, robbery and aggravated assault unrelated to domestic violence, said UTSA criminologist Michael R. Smith.

In the first phase, officers sat in their squad cars with the overhead lights on for about 15 minutes during rush hours at data-identified crime hotspots. The hot spots are typically about a block in size and about 10-14 were targeted during each period of the phase.

Officials did not identify which areas of the city were considered crime hotspots, citing that disclosure of that information could render the plan ineffective.

Go forward

The next phase of the plan will involve all levels of city government – including 10 city councils, along with community members, Mendenhall said.

In recent days, researchers at the university have been hosting training sessions focused on what they call “problem-focused, location-based policing.” The strategy aims to remove areas identified as crime hotspots from that list, Smith said, and alleviate long-standing problems in places where violent crime rates are high.

In Dallas, where the plan has been in effect since May 2021, one of the hotspots this move focused on was an apartment complex – which Smith said was the “most violent place” in the city. One of the solutions brought to the area was an after-school program for youth.

“We’ve got parks and recreation areas, we’ve got law enforcement, we’ve got prosecutors involved — there’s multiple interest groups,” Smith said, noting that violent crime has dropped significantly at the apartment complex. “It’s a multi-pronged, multidisciplinary strategy that varies from place to place – depending on the nature of the problems.”

Criminologists have just begun to identify the contributing factors of each Salt Lake City hotspot and recommend solutions.

“What we’ve been doing in the city for a long time is a fraction of what we just built,” Mendenhall said on Wednesday. “…This is not politically motivated in the sense of an instruction from council members like ‘Please look at this area’ or ‘I get a lot of complaints here.’ This is 100% data driven.”

Justin Scaccy

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