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The City Journals

Police and fire officials report to council on crime prevention programs, call volumes

Oct 05, 2021 09:21AM ● By Bill Hardesty

South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Carruth answers questions at the Riverfront community night. (Courtesy of Pat Hardesty)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

At the Sept. 15 South Salt Lake City Council Meeting, Police Chief Jack Carruth and Fire Chief Terry Addison gave reports on their respective departments.

SSLPD

While admitting crime rates are a great concern to SSL residents and are often discussed by politicians, Carruth cautioned that the numbers could be misleading.

“I feel it’s important to understand how crime data is collected, to understand better what it means for individual communities,” Carruth said. 

Historically, there have been two ways to report crime data to the FBI. The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The UCR is a summary reporting system that uses rules to determine the most serious crime to report for one incident. NIBRS allows police departments to report up to 10 offenses for a single incident. This methodology provides a more accurate picture of crime. As a result, the FBI mandated all agencies use NIBRS as of Jan. 1.

Carruth moved away from a discussion on crime stats to talking about crime prevention. Carruth highlighted some current SSLPD programs:

  • Property Check – Homeowners and business owners can request a periodic check on their property. The request form is on SSLC.com. As time permits, police will either check the property visually as they drive by or physically by walking around the perimeter and checking doors and windows. If a problem arises, the owner is contacted.
  • Good Landlord Program – This is an incentive program of SSL. The program is intended to educate landlords on management strategies to prevent crime, maintain equity and promote compatibility with surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, participating landlords receive a significant reduction on their annual rental license fees.
  • Bike Registration – This program helps reduce bike theft. If a registered bike is stolen, SSLPD has all the information to list the bike as stolen. If it is recovered, the owner is contacted immediately.
  • Business Watch – Most property crimes are crimes of opportunities such as an unlocked door or a dark loading dock that is often left unattended. This program provides strategies to businesses to lower the chance.
  • Neighborhood Watch – This program is like the Business Watch except for neighborhoods. As residents get to know each other, they can take an active role in the safety and security of their neighborhood. Currently, there are several Neighborhood Watch groups. Contact the Community Policing division for additional information.

Carruth also suggested a future program of online reporting. Online reporting would be used to report and provide information on crimes such as theft. The goal is to free up an officer to do more proactive activities and enforcement. 

“When I talk about online reporting, I’m very sensitive about it,” Carruth said. “It will be at the discretion of a citizen to say this is something I want to report online, or I want an officer to respond. Anytime a citizen requests an officer response, that’s exactly what they’ll get—an in-person response from an officer.”

“Public safety does not look like it did 20 years ago. In 20 more years, it won’t look like it does today. By taking an active role in implementing new technology, we will be in a better position to evolve with rapid changes while protecting both our officers and citizens from harm,” Carruth said. “Enabling online reporting for our citizens will help make efficient use of our limited resources and is just one step in the ongoing evolution of service to our community in making officers more visible to deter crime.”  

Carruth also reported on some positive results of the recent pay increase. For example, SSLPD can fill vacant positions in the Street Crimes Unit, a Business Watch position, and the Traffic Unit. Because officers had to be pulled from these units to patrol, these units were down five positions.

SSLFD

Addison reviewed the annual SSLFD report. The complete report is available at SSLC.com. Some of the highlights are:

  • SSLFD received 7,231 calls between July 2020 and June 2021. Of that total, 6,075 were medical calls.
  • SSLFD has 70 employees with four battalion chiefs and nine captains. There are nine engineers. In addition, there are 18 firefighters/paramedics and 24 firefighters/EMTs.
  • Ninety percent of the budget goes to salary and benefits.
  • SSLFD experienced a 6% increase in fire calls and a 21% increase in medical calls.
  • Most fire calls were false alarms.
  • Of the top 10 medical calls, psychiatric problems/abnormal behavior/suicide attempts top the list at 11.64%.
  • As mentioned in an earlier article, SSLFD received an ISO Class 1 rating. Only 411 fire departments out of 39,000 received such a classification.
  • The public can visit fire stations.

“Volume rose by more than 1,000 calls while operating on a tighter budget than the previous year,” Addison said. “We innovate, adjust our training through the pandemic despite logistical challenges, continue to perform at peak levels in the face of these trials, and we could not be more proud of the work our people accomplished daily.”