Some constituents have told me they’ve seen an increase in crime in their neighborhoods and along the Jordan River. As a council member, my number one priority is the health and public safety of the residents in the community. To ensure that any spillover effect from Operation Rio Grande is mitigated in the communities in the heart of Salt Lake County, here are some of the things we are doing to help.
After hearing concerns from law enforcement about an inability to book criminals into the jail due to limited space, the county council allocated additional funds this year to fully open Oxbow Jail and provide more jail beds. It’s crucial that police officers have jail beds open as a tool to help them do their job effectively. We should not be in a situation where jail inmates are released because there simply isn’t enough room.
Since that appropriation we’ve also learned of some staffing challenges at the jail, which is also inhibiting the full opening of Oxbow. We’ve been working with the Sheriff as she works toward addressing that, and moving toward a full opening of Oxbow as soon as is feasible.
The other issue we see along the Jordan River is the presence of transient camps. As a current member and former chair of the Jordan River Commission, I am deeply committed to the Jordan River as a safe and family friendly open space resource. What a gem we have in our community!
I’ve expressed concerns about the new homeless resource center that will abut the river in South Salt Lake. The Jordan River Parkway is a regional resource that we’ve invested a significant amount of taxpayer money into over the years. I would hate to see negative impacts from any potential criminal activity or other factors that were apparent in the Rio Grande District in Salt Lake City. I’ve advocated for ways to mitigate any of these possible impacts, and I was thrilled when Representative Mike Winder proposed a bill to designate a Recreation Zone along the Jordan River between SR-201 and 4500 South. The state legislature passed this bill and allocated some ongoing funding to help with security along the river, in addition to various other upgrades.
As I’ve been involved in meetings to figure out how to allocate these dollars, I am excited with what the future holds for the Jordan River Parkway. In the next year I am hoping we will see much of the invasive species vegetation removed to make the parkway safer and less desirable for transient camps. I also look forward to a Tracy Aviary Education Center along the river, along with bike rentals, updated restrooms, and additional trails.
We all recognized the need to act swiftly and decisively to disrupt the drug trade and general criminal element that was preying on so many of our homeless residents in downtown Salt Lake. We also ought to be encouraged by positive signs of progress in that region, and on the homelessness issue after all. But we shouldn’t ignore some of the other impacts associated with this effort.
Moving forward, I’ll continue to listen to the feedback of my constituents as they raise concerns about our community, and the precious amenities within it. I will also be meeting with your city officials to see how Salt Lake County can help with any issues. I believe that by listening to our residents and being responsive with practical solutions, we can protect our neighborhoods and our resources for generations to come.
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]