Weekend of gun violence in SLC prompts call for peace from mayor and police chief

“It is time to put down your guns,” Salt Lake City police chief Mike Brown said.

(Connor Sanders) Mayor Erin Mendenhall addresses reporters during a news conference about crime rates and gun violence in Salt Lake City Tuesday.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Police Chief Mike Brown said more is needed to protect communities from gun violence after three residents ended up in the hospital after shootings this weekend.

Brown reported that general crime rates are going down month over month in 2021 at a news conference at Pioneer Park on Tuesday morning. But he also emphasized the lasting damage that gun violence has on victims and their families.

“We are coming off a weekend that saw too much gun violence,” Brown said. “What we saw this weekend is not reflective of our city and certainly will not reflect the future of our city. The lives of three people have changed forever because of gun violence.”

Brown said that SLCPD had arrested a suspect who allegedly wounded two teenagers in a drive-by shooting Saturday night. The department is still searching for the suspect that sent a man in his 50s to a hospital in critical condition after he shot at a home near Redwood Road and 500 South Monday morning.

“The trauma associated with these injuries and this incident will likely stick with them and their families for the rest of their lives,” Brown said. “Our police department remains committed to providing victim-centered and trauma-informed services. We will be there for these survivors throughout the pursuit of justice.”

“I want to make a plea to our community, especially to our younger generations: it is time to put down your guns. Too many lives are being impacted in our city because of firearms,” Brown said.

The news conference was held in Pioneer Park a week after a video depicting a sex act at the park surfaced on social media.

Mendenhall referred to the incident saying, “Clearly, a stronger deterrent is necessary to prevent such crimes.”

Within an hour of finding out about the incident, Brown designated the Rio Grande neighborhood as a “focus area” where off-duty officers will regularly patrol the park, “referring people to services and deterring criminal activity,” Brown said.

Brown called the video “disgusting” and said the video showed “criminal behavior, and it has no place in our community — especially at a park.” Brown said police didn’t respond to it because no one in the area called to report the crime.

“We can’t emphasize enough that the communities we serve are our greatest partner when it comes to addressing crime,” Brown added. “Big or small, please call and we’ll respond.”

As of Tuesday, criminal activity in Rio Grande is down 3.9% compared to its five-year average, Brown said.

While crime has increased by 2.9% in 2021 compared to the city’s five-year average, Brown said, “We are in a better position today than we were in 2020.” Year-to-date crime rates in 2021 are less than they were in 2015, 2016 and 2017, Brown noted.

But compared to 2020, crime in Salt Lake City has increased almost across the board, according to SLCPD’s most recent CompStat report. Violent crime has increased by 8.7% so far in 2021 and there has been a 50% increase in criminal homicides, rising from eight in 2020 to 12 in 2021, the report shows.

Brown reported that violent crimes are a “small fraction” of the overall number of crimes in Salt Lake City. He said that most crime is related to property or quality of life, such as theft, vandalism and disorderly conduct. There have been 9,770 cases of property crime compared to 1,189 violent crimes, according to the report.

In total, the number of property and violent crimes has increased by 6.2% compared to last year.

(Salt Lake City Police Department) Crime has increased in Salt Lake City in 2021 compared to 2020, according to SLCPD's most recent CompStat report.

One area of concern citywide, Brown said, is aggravated assault — especially among family members. Aggravated assault cases are up nearly 59% in Salt Lake City’s District 5, which includes the neighborhoods around Ballpark and Liberty Park. Brown encouraged anyone affected by family violence to speak with a victim advocate through a domestic violence resource center.

SLCPD has hired 20 new officers since June, Mendenhall said, and seven officers who left for different agencies in 2020 have returned to Salt Lake City. Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City council approved a wage increase for officers on June 25.

Still, Brown said that SLCPD, “is down 56 funded positions.” Brown reported that in the last week of August, calls for service increased by 20% in Salt Lake City, meaning the department received about 444 more calls to 911 or the nonemergency dispatch line.

“Our data and the direction of our police department is encouraging, but it’s not nearly as safe as our residents deserve,” Mendenhall said. “I was looking forward to this press conference to share this good-trending data with you, but recent incidents have reminded us there’s more work to do.”

Brown said that he expected call response times and efforts to do “proactive, community-based policing” to improve as staffing levels increase. SLCPD is “moving resources around” to ensure there are enough officers on patrol, Brown said.

Mendenhall said that she would provide an update on the Project Safe Neighborhood partnership between SLCPD, the U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the coming weeks. As of Aug. 26, 127 defendants have been charged in Salt Lake City through the program, Mendenhall said.

“Our goal is to continue to send a clear message that crime is not welcome in Salt Lake City,” Mendenhall said.