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The City Journals

Murray police increases Parkway presence

Jun 19, 2019 04:04PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City bike patrol officers at Willow Pond Park. (Photo courtesy Murray City)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

The law of unintended consequences went into effect in 2017 when Operation Rio Grande cracked down on an out-of-control homelessness problem in Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande neighborhood, forcing much of the homeless population to relocate. The Jordan River Parkway became a conduit for uprooted vagrancy to filter into all cities along the route, including Murray.

“Initially, when Operation Rio Grande went into effect, we did see an increase in homeless people camping along the parkway. This was primarily along the northern border between Murray and Millcreek. There were a few camps that we found a little further south along the Parkway,” said Murray Police Department Sergeant Kip Davies.  

In response, Murray Police beefed up, and still maintains, its presence along the parkway. They increased police patrols at all city parks, and patrol officers drive through the parks—their patrol cars show their presence. They also use motorcycle and bicycle officers along the parkway where the patrol officers in cars would have a more difficult time gaining access.  

During the summer, School Resource Officers, as well as the D.A.R.E. and Community Services Officers, are assigned to bicycle patrol. With the combination of the motor officers and bicycle patrols, the Parkway is quite heavily patrolled in the summer. In addition to the efforts of Community Services Officers, the Division of Natural Resources has allocated money for extra patrols along the parkway.  

Also, Police Chief Craig Burnett has purchased a side-by-side utility vehicle, which allows for more access along the parkway and saves the officers time, so they can patrol more of the parkway.

“The homeless/camping problems that we were dealing with have dropped significantly with the directed patrols that we have continued along the Jordan River Parkway,” Davies said. “As far as the Murray portion of the Jordan River Parkway, there isn’t one specific problem with crimes along the Parkway. We get calls for vandalism, abandoned vehicles and the occasional vehicle burglary in the parking lots of the Jordan River Parkway Trail.” 

Homelessness itself is not a crime; instead, it is the actions of homeless people that can be crimes. With many neighborhoods having access ways onto the parkway, residents registered concern at a December 2018 town hall meeting that there was an uptick in crimes since Operation Rio Grande. 

“As far as the aftereffects of Operation Rio Grande, regarding Murray City, the situation has improved.  This is because of the focused patrols that are occurring continually along the parkway. The Murray City Police strive to provide a safe environment to both live in and enjoy while visiting the many parks in Murray City. This effort has provided a safe area to enjoy along the Murray City portion of the Jordan River Parkway and all parks in Murray, and it shows,” Davies remarked.

Murray Police and the Murray Parks Department have partnered to identify homeless camps and immediate-address areas where vagrancy or vandalism has occurred. Murray City also has set up a non-emergency number — (801) 840-4000 — to report such criminal activity.

Davies also advocates the use of good common sense. “Any time that you are out, you should be aware of your surroundings. If you drive to the parkway, make sure that you secure your vehicle. Do not leave purses, bags or other property in plain sight. It only takes seconds for the window of your car to be broken and your property taken. Also, make sure you lock your vehicle. Many times, vehicles are left unlocked, which makes it easier to gain entry.

“While using the parkway, try to go with another person. Have a cell phone with you in case of emergencies. If an emergency does arise when you are using the parkway, have an idea of your location to assist with the response times of emergency personnel.”