South Salt Lake police have a new plan in place to keep the area from becoming the new center of drugs and crime as the new 300-bed Men's Resource Center moves in.
Police are a couple weeks in to patrolling their new shelter, which is located at 3400 South and 1000 West, just a block from the Salt Lake County Jail.
The new plan starts at the front door. South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth says everyone checking in is screened and searched for drugs and weapons. The chief said he is well aware of the public concern around the new shelter opening up.
“I think that's a legitimate concern," Carruth said.
South Salt Lake has never had a homeless shelter in the city, so to best patrol it, Carruth says the mindset of his officers must change.
"The quality of life in South Salt Lake should not change because of the resource center," the chief said.
Carruth pointed out he thinks there's a big difference between this shelter and the problems seen in the Rio Grande area around the now-closed Road Home Shelter downtown.
“I think there's a better sense that there's not that 'lawlessness' that was the word used early on in Operation Rio Grande,” Carruth said.
The plan calls for rotating shifts between six officers at all times at or near the facility, and another six officers patrolling the surrounding area. Carruth says sending people to jail will not be the first remedy in many cases. Instead, officers will direct the homeless to housing, job, and addiction resources.
"That's just a revolving door, that just creates a bigger problem," Carruth said, "they don't see light at the end of the tunnel — 'I just keep getting arrested for trying to survive.'"
Carruth says his officers have already started cleaning up encampments in the area to deter new ones popping up.
He hopes his officers can help the staff at the new shelter learn how best to police the residents. The plan is still in the very early stages and might be altered based on need, the chief said.
“That's been my commitment to our residents and our business owners, that we'll maintain the quality of life as you knew it prior to the resource center,” Carruth said.