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HIGHER TAXES GET HIGH MARKS IN FIGHT AGAINST S.L. CRIME

Residents of Salt Lake City are willing to pay higher taxes to turn back the tide of crime, youth violence and gangs that they believe threatens the city.

According to a poll commissioned by the city's quality steering council, residents think crime, gangs and violence are the biggest problems facing Salt Lake City. Sixty-five percent of residents surveyed said they'd pay more taxes to hire additional police officers to fight crime."That's extremely flattering they're willing to commit themselves to that, should it be necessary," said Lt. Jim Jensen, police spokesman. Jensen is pleased residents "have enough confidence to make a personal sacrifice to help us out."

But that won't be necessary, says Mayor Deedee Corradini. The city expects to receive several federal grants, including money from the recently passed crime bill, to hire additional police officers.

"Until we find out how much we're going to get from Washington, we don't need to do that," Corradini said.

The city may be interested, however, in taking residents up on their offer to help crime-fighting efforts as it continues to implement community-oriented policing programs. A majority of residents, 91 percent, also said they'd be somewhat or very willing to work with police to solve community problems.

"More citizen involvement does make an impact," Jensen said. "It's a critical component of our overall strategy. The community has to get involved if we're going to improve the overall quality of life in Salt Lake City."

The steering council commissioned the "customer feedback poll" as part of its quality initiative, said Roger Black, director of management services. The city paid Dan Jones & Associates $9,000 to poll 710 residents, which was conducted Aug. 4-11. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.75 percent.

The city will use the poll results to gauge progress the city makes as it focuses on providing high-quality services, Black said.

Black plans to review the results with department directors during planning sessions this week to "make sure our programs are moving in the right direction."

The results also will be used to help frame upcoming budgets, Black said. The city likely would devote more funds to improve services that received low marks from residents - such as traffic congestion and the road system.

The survey included a broad range of questions, from how residents rate the services they receive from individual city departments to how well the city is addressing key issues.

Overall, the city came out with high marks. Ninety-one percent of the respondents said they rate the quality of life in the city as high or very high. A majority - 60 percent said they receive good service for the tax dollars they pay.

Those surveyed also gave city employees the thumbs up, rating them high on professionalism. When asked to rate various services, residents gave top marks to the fire department, garbage service, city paramedics and libraries.

"I was surprised and delighted that the overall rating on the quality and level of services was as high was it was," Black said. "I tend to be somewhat of a pessimist in my outlook so I was prepared to find out citizens were less satisfied than they are."

But residents revealed a common concern in their responses. Most are worried about crime and violence, particularly committed by youth perpetrators. Residents apparently view the downtown area as a scary place after dark. In response to one question, 60 percent of respondents said they felt unsafe walking alone downtown at night.

"I've said crime and youth violence are our No. 1 problems," Corradini said. "This confirms that, and that will continue to be the top priority."