Sunday's fatal shooting of two teenage boys in a Rose Park grocery store parking lot points to an emergency just as serious as a major flood or earthquake, says Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini.
And with that in mind, Corradini urged hundreds of Rose Park residents gathered at Northwest Middle School Wednesday to help legislators grasp how pressing violence in their neighborhood is."We need your voice to be heard in the statehouse," she told an emotional group packed into the school's auditorium. "This is an emergency, and we ought to be spending money on it."
If the state had taken more measures against people who commit crimes, perhaps 17-year-old Torrie Lambrose and 16-year-old Theodore Davis would not have died, she said, pointing out that both had criminal records she says should have kept them off the streets.
"What hit me was these two children and their personal records. Where were we when those kids were 9 and 13 years old and committed their first offense?"
"We failed those individuals - we meaning all of us, society and government," said Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega.
Corradini called for the state to revamp its juvenile court system and provide more probation officers and for schools to stay open longer so children have a safe place to stay.
Principal among her justice reform requests are that the state provide more beds in correctional facilities and that criminals be treated according to the severity of their crimes, not their ages.
"As long as these kids are laughing at police officers because there's no room to put them and they know it, we won't make progress," she said. "And it doesn't matter how old you are: If you're a criminal, you're a criminal, and you shouldn't be on the street."
Corradini's remarks, as well as her "pep talk" praising Rose Park for its community activism, prompted enthusiastic applause from residents present at the meeting. Other people, however, loudly questioned whether they can actually influence lawmakers to do anything.
Rep. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake, also spoke at the meeting and said he, too, has felt very emotional about what has happened to Rose Park during the last week. For years, he said, he has tried to persuade his colleagues in the Legislature that they must give more heed to crime in the capital city.
"I'm afraid my pleas have fallen on deaf ears," he said, noting that legislators from other parts of the state may not realize the situation is crucial, as he believes it is.
"Help me take that plea to our rural legislators. Talk to your relatives there. Tell them how you feel tonight, tell them how you felt Sunday and Monday," he said.
Suazo said he filed on Tuesday a bill that would require adults who supply weapons to youths involved in assaults be charged with a second-degree felony. Suazo also said he would propose a tax on weapons and bullet purchases, money from which would go to combat crime.
This idea was not received well, and several residents shouted "No more taxes!" Suazo then urged them to help persuade the legislature money from the state's surplus should go toward anti-crime measures.