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Business owners “cautiously optimistic” of Operation Rio Grande

DOWNTOWN SALT LAKE – Over 220 people have been arrested in the first three days of “Operation Rio Grande,” a multi-jurisdictional effort to both eliminate criminals preying on the homeless population, and give the homeless more services to help them.

Some business owners are encouraged with the results they’ve seen from the first three days of Operation Rio Grande, while others like Gateway Bridal and Prom Owner Nicole Thomas say they’re just “cautiously optimistic.”  She believe the arrests and the disruptions in drug sales are a step in the right direction, but, renovating Pioneer Park to make it more family-friendly would also be a big help.  Thomas says, “When we get to the point that we’re able to redevelop that park and turn it into something new, then, I think, that will be the ultimate restoration of confidence.”

Rio Grande Café Owner Byron Loveall was told conditions were terrible in the area when he bought the restaurant earlier this year.  He says the steps being taken to reduce the crime in the area are well-received.  “Our city has responded.  Our law enforcement has responded and we’re showing compassion to those on the street that don’t have what they need to get better in their lives.”

Officials with the Downtown Alliance say Salt Lake City and the police department have been doing their best to stop the drug trade around the homeless population, but, Executive Director Jason Mathis says the city just couldn’t do it on its own.  Mathis says, “Salt Lake City didn’t have the resources necessary to address this.”

However, some nearby residents say they’re still frustrated that the problem got so bad in the first place.  Susanna Clar says she would see drug deals and shooting in Pioneer Park, and claims the police would take a long time to get there after being called.  “By the time [police] arrive, the bad people are gone,” she says.