At a time when Salt Lake City’s homeless crisis is at the forefront throughout the city, police spend a lot of time dealing with it.
A 2News public record request found that police are called hundreds of times a week for complaints related to homelessness, passing people, street camping or other related issues.
That’s a big part of an agent’s workload, straining an already short service.
âIt takes a pretty big chunk of our available resources,â said Salt Lake City police sergeant. Keith Horrocks said.
Hundreds of hours
Police records show officers answered 147 to 256 calls each week on the matter from November 1 to mid-June. An email from a Salt Lake police captain in March to the mayor’s chief of staff said each service call “consumes at least 2 hours of work.”
Do the math – that means the police spend between 300 and 500 hours per week. And that’s a conservative estimate. In that same March 19 email, Salt Lake City Police Captain Lance VanDongen wrote: âThis is exactly what we can proveâ¦ many other appeals related to mental health and crime against people. goods are linked to the same challenge.
This email was written to Rachel Otto, Chief of Staff to Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, and Erin Litvack, Deputy Mayor of Salt Lake County.
Complaints from a company
Canyon Sports, located at 517 South 200 West in Salt Lake City, is a place where calls to the police are commonplace.
Employee Kevin Meepos said the outdoor rental equipment store called police “at least once a day” about concerns about a group of people camping and loitering in their parking lot and near their home. business.
âThey come into our property, harass our customers, shoot drugs, poop on our property, piss on our property, throw stones at our windows,â Meepos said.
While 2News was interviewing Meepos at the store Thursday afternoon, our team saw a man in the parking lot attempting to inject himself with a needle. Meepos said this type of behavior is common.
Canyon Sports complaints are only part of the many calls Salt Lake police receive each week regarding street roaming and camping. When asked if this puts pressure on the department, Horrocks said, “I think it’s all kind of a strain in our current predicament.”
This is because the Salt Lake Police Department has dozens of vacancies resulting in slower response times. But, they insist, people who need help should still call them.
“We will respond,” Horrocks said, “and we will fix the problem you are calling us for as quickly as possible.”
Andrew Johnston, the new director of homeless policy and outreach in Salt Lake City, is not shocked by the number of calls police are getting about it. He believes that as the city seeks to house 300 people currently on the streets, those calls for service will drop.
âThis is fundamentally a housing issue,â said Johnston. “If you can spend the money on housing and focus your energies on housing, we can alleviate this initial crisis we are facing.”
Then there is the question that has been asked in this new era of police reform: all those calls for service that the police should respond to rather than a social worker?
âThat’s the question we’re starting to ask ourselves,â Horrocks said. âWhat should the police respond to? At the present time? It is appropriate that we respond to them.
He said Salt Lake Police have seven social workers and plan to hire 13 more soon. He noted, however, that the police will likely always be present when a passenger is called for help because these situations can often become dangerous and unpredictable.
âUntil we can find a better solution or a better way to do it, we are the ones who respond,â Horrocks said. âKeep calling us. We will respond and resolve the issue for which you are calling us as quickly as possible.