A comment by Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank at a recent council meeting provoked the cop rumor mill into speculation overdrive that the vice squad is being disbanded.
Not true, says SLCPD's public-information officer, Detective Mike Hamideh. Chief Burbank responded to a question at a council meeting about a case involving allegations of prostitution by noting that, Hamideh says, paraphrasing Burbank's comment, "we're going to look at how we deploy our resources."
The rumor mongering follows a shooting of a man by a vice-squad officer outside a downtown McDonalds in October 2011. Cop watchers are waiting to see what the ruling will be by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on whether the shooting was justified.
Hamideh says the reassessment of the vice squad, rather than being prompted by the shooting, actually reflects changes in the nature of prostitution, namely the shift from street walkers to Craigslist advertisements. "Rest assured, prostitution-related crimes will still be investigated," he says.
The anti-vice unit covers not only prostitution, but also alcohol issues and business licensing—for example, massage parlors—bars and tobacco violations.
Hamideh noted that the vice squad was recognized in 2008 by Shared Hope International for its work on minor sex trafficking. One possible direction in re-deploying the squad's resources, he says, is the problem of human trafficking of minors for the sex trade in Salt Lake City.