Salt Lake City Council is considering allocating $236,000 to ramp up the police presence in parks through additional overtime shifts.
2News has reported that neighbors and visitors have complained about an increase in crime, drugs and homelessness at Liberty Park.
Officers have increased patrols — for example, 69 hours of overtime at Liberty Park in mid-September. Now, the police chief and city leaders hope to double down on the effort with extra shifts, many of them late at night, seven days a week.
“While they’ve been able to go as far as they can within their existing budget, we’re providing an additional potential of $236,000 in overtime coverage,” Charlie Luke, council chair said.
City leaders discussed the proposal Tuesday. A public hearing on the budget amendment is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 7 p.m., with a vote tentatively set for Nov. 19.
Sgt. Keith Horrocks of the Salt Lake City Police Department said officers direct their focus to different parks and public spaces based on community feedback and crime data.
"Any time you’re seeing a homeless camp or something like that, that’s really what we’re looking at,” Horrocks said. “There’s a fine line of whether or not somebody’s actually camping there or if they’re just, they have all of their effects with them wherever they’re at. There’s drug use, all the ancillary crimes that go with homelessness."
Police and elected leaders have floated the idea of a longer-term park patrol program, potentially with a bike squad or dedicated unit, but the sergeant said the timeline and details are still being worked out.
More officers are in the pipeline, but it takes nearly a year to hire and train them, Horrocks said.
Luke said more overtime is the best way to handle the problem, and he said the additional patrols led to a “marked difference” at the parks.
“We just want to make sure, as a city, that our parks and public lands are safe, that people feel safe visiting them,” Luke said.