Fed up with crime and eager to do something about it, area businesses have already donated nearly $35,000 so the city can hire another police officer.
But the business owners - because of both altruism and fear - have requested they and their businesses remain anonymous. At least three have contributed to the police fund, according to South Salt Lake Police public information officer Beau Babka. The largest single donation was $30,000."As far as the chamber is concerned, I've been instructed (by the board that) it's something they want to do, but they'd rather not have the exposure," said Darro Glissmeyer, president of the South Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Romie Glissmeyer, the chamber's executive vice president, said some business owners don't want their names and businesses made public because they fear gang retaliation. She added that a few businesses had been hit with graffiti last weekend.
"Even gangs read newspapers," Romie Glissmeyer said.
The money, raised over the past month and still coming in, will pay a new officer's salary for one year. Babka said that officer has been hired and is being trained for patrol. Another officer will be moved to the city's new community-oriented policing office.
The businesses, according to Romie Glissmeyer, responded to suggestions made in the chamber's newsletter and meetings about helping the cash-strapped police department. Some, who were "sick and tired of being hit," immediately thought the suggestion was a good one. Others, Romie Glissmeyer said, still think it's the city's responsibility to fund the department.
"We feel it's up to the businesses. If they want to help, that's good; if not, that's their business," Romie Glissmeyer said. "We don't push anything down their throats."
Babka, also a sergeant and community-oriented policing coordinator, said violent crime and youth- and gang-related crime have steadily increased in the 12,000-member community in the past three years.
He also said South Salt Lake has the dubious honor of being Utah's No. 1 city for crimes committed per 1,000 people. He attributed that to the city's location "smack in the middle of the valley" and ability to attract a highly transient population.
Last year South Salt Lake had 199 crimes per 1,000 people. Salt Lake City was second with 111 per 1,000.
Babka said the department's goal is to get its current 27-officer patrol up to staff with two more officers, then upgrade with five or more officers.