Tackle the Real Issue 

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So the Salt Lake City Police Department is going to “clean up” the few blocks of Main Street that have become a vagrant’s oasis? Great! So, they’ll arrest the drug dealers? Ticket the drunks? Maybe even harass the homeless? Wait, no ... they’re going to issue jaywalking tickets to everyone who happens to step off the TRAX platform 10 feet shy of the crosswalk.

Do the police realize that 90 percent of the people on TRAX are students and working-class citizens? In other words, this isn’t the problem they’re trying to clean up. Instead of clearing that particular concrete strip of crime, they’re teaching its resident criminals to walk within the white lines.

The clean-up technique may not be logical, but hey, at least they’re taking a decent-size chunk out of the city’s budget deficit. What I find most irritating is that the Police Department has enough extra resources to station two officers outside my favorite coffee shop with ticket books in hand, but fast forward a week, and there’s a man on the bench outside said coffee shop obviously dealing drugs. Wait ... let’s not make assumptions. There’s a man on the bench discreetely handing out little baggies in exchange for cash—they could’ve been anything! The barista calls in to report it and is told it’ll take 45 minutes to send an officer the three blocks over to investigate. Excuse me, but what happened to last week’s excess police force?

Forgive my presumption, but here’s a potentially more effective solution for the police: Get to know the regulars on that corner. Penalize the real troublemakers and direct the others who hang out there—whether it’s because they have no job, no home or maybe just nothing better to do—into appropriate local programs. There are plenty of groups trying to eliminate homelessness, treat substance abuse and give teens some sort of organized recreation.

Of course, if that’s too much work, the police could just badger them, cite them and detain them until they find another city block to hang out on, knowing you’ll declare success, and it’ll take a year or so for some committee to instigate another half-assed “clean up” of their newly claimed section of downtown. Either way, please stop enforcing petty, archaic traffic laws and do something that at least appears to tackle the issue.

Robin Cox

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