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Pioneer Park area starts a watch

Residents, firms to work with police to combat drug activity

Mickelle Weber moved to the Pioneer Park neighborhood from a South Weber home in November after spending two weeks canvassing the area.

She felt the diversely populated spot would be the best place to live "in the world," she said while conducting a Neighborhood Watch organizational meeting Tuesday night.

Many others who live in the rectangle between West Temple and 600 West, and South Temple and 400 South, agree. About 100 of them showed up at the meeting, held at A Cup of Joe, 353 W. 200 South.

Also in attendance was Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, several detectives and officers, Salt Lake Councilwoman Nancy Saxton, and numerous landlords and business owners from the area.

The meeting, organized primarily by Weber, comes in the aftermath of a violent crime spree that left two dead and one in critical condition in Pioneer Park on Wednesday night.

Residents and police are also concerned about an increase in drug trafficking in the neighborhood. According to Burbank, Salt Lake City is the only big city in the United States seeing a resurgence in crack cocaine problems. The drug activity is focused in Pioneer Park, he said.

"We will never be able to arrest our way out of this problem," he said at the standing-room-only meeting. "We need to form an entire, cohesive plan."

Police have increased undercover operations in the area and have made about 500 arrests so far this year, he said. They also plan to increase bicycle patrols of the park to nearly double visible police presence in the area.

But police will need help, Burbank said, and that's where Weber and her team come in.

"This does work in other cities, very well," she said.

Residents from each apartment or condominium building in the neighborhood volunteered to serve as chairpersons. They plan to organize building meetings, then work with Weber and police detectives to make the project work.

A mobile patrol that will work closely with police is also planned.

For more information on the Pioneer Park Neighborhood Watch program or to start a similar program in your area, call 801-799-3000 or your local police.