Imagine that one day you return home from work to find that robbers have broken into your home and stolen all of your possessions. You call the police.
Unfortunately, the police tell you they are sorry but that if they pursue the robbers, the criminals will simply move to a different part of town and other homes will be broken into.
You would not accept this answer and no one should.
As comical as the logic of this hypothetical may sound, it is, sadly, an all-too-common response to Operation Rio Grande.
Some people feel that their neighborhoods have seen new crimes and shady characters increase after Operation Rio Grande. They are understandably upset about this.
Cynically, some people who should know better are inciting neighbors to turn on each other in the interest of their own political aspirations.
We all want our neighborhoods to be safe.
If Operation Rio Grande has caused problems in other neighborhoods, then we should all be concerned about that and link arms to fight these problems.
But if your response to Operation Rio Grande is to say the criminals need to be “returned” to the Pioneer Park neighborhood we all will lose.
This is not just feel-good theory, the hard evidence post Operation Rio Grande demonstrates this.
In the year since Operation Rio Grande started, overall crime levels in Salt Lake City — as a whole — are at their lowest in the five-year history readily available in city data. Don’t just take my word for it, anyone can look at the Salt Lake City Police Department’s statistics.
A 24 percent drop in city-wide annual crime levels is a huge deal.
Did these gains come at the expense of the homeless? No, largely not. The data here indicates a generally positive story.
Service providers in the Rio Grande neighborhood are seeing just as many people seeking help as before Operation Rio Grande started. Those who come to the shelter are getting out faster than before, more people have exited the shelter to housing than the year before, and hundreds have access to substance abuse treatment that did not exist prior to this effort.
Naturally, no program is perfect and some have probably been hurt by this effort. Those experiencing homelessness seem to have as diverse opinions on its impact as our housed population.
The larger picture, though, is one of progress on homelessness.
Neither the issue of homelessness nor the crime problems of the Rio Grande neighborhood have been completely solved. We have a long way to go. Regarding crime, just last week there was a major tragedy and a fugitive who shot himself in a neighborhood business.
We have never viewed law enforcement on the basis that it only succeeds if crime is completely eliminated. Yet, Operation Rio Grande’s detractors would have it evaluated this way.
The real question should be whether the community is better off and if we are headed in the right direction. It clearly is and we certainly are.
Rather than suggest Pioneer Park area residents do not deserve safety, let us band together.
Let us work to address Salt Lake City’s problematic ordinances that have enabled camping at Library Square, where a flourishing drug trade has sprung up.
Let us ask why Salt Lake City does not bring nuisance suits against businesses that are harboring criminals and facilitating the drug trade, like we see on North Temple.
These neighborhoods deserve safety, just as the Rio Grande does. We are all more likely to get it when we help each other.
Dave Kelly, Tiffanie Provost, Lynn Ames and Scott Howell makeup the executive leadership of the Pioneer Park Coalition