SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) - Operation Rio Grande has caused issues in other neighborhoods, as homeless, and drug dealers move away from downtown. Leaders of the operation met in the Ballpark neighborhood to hear residents’ concerns Thursday night.
Neighbors said the homeless call this area near Smith Ballpark "an oasis" because they find buildings which have access to electricity and water. When people camp, it also bring easy access to the drug trade. While things have gotten somewhat better neighbors worry the resource center being built down the street could make things worse.
“Nothing like going into your backyard and finding a couple of drug needles as you're doing your yard work,” said resident Chris Derbidge.
Derbidge said problems in his neighborhood have spiked since Operation Rio Grande got underway. Break-ins and thefts have become more frequent.
While leaders say they anticipated problems going into nearby neighborhoods, Derbidge says they had to take matters into their own hand.
"I had to just keep calling and calling, and calling and get the neighbors to call and we started taking pictures I started posting pictures of the stuff I was seeing,” said Derbdige.
Eventually neighbors started to see some progress, but Derbidge said he still has to walk his daughter to the bus stop even though she's in junior high. Residents brought these concerns to the Ballpark Council meeting where leaders of Operation Rio Grande were on hand to give their reaction.
"That's not acceptable to me. I would argue it's not acceptable to the Salt Lake City Police, It's not acceptable to the law enforcement a as we have coordinated these efforts. Again we have a budget to address this,” said Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes.
Speaker Hughes said while it may be frustrating he asks neighbors to continue to call police, and they will show up. Leaders of the operation say the resource centers will bring real help and not be like the current homeless situation. Those resource centers are expected to be finished by June of 2019.
Neighbors said they plan to keep calling, but they said it gets frustrating not seeing results.
This hole in the fence at Smith Ballpark has been there for a month and homeless sometimes sneak in to sleep on the grass. A ‘no trespassing’ sign didn't keep them away.
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