SALT LAKE CITY — Law enforcement officials and business owners are hoping a new police substation on North Temple will quell some of the crime that has increased there recently.
"If you put enough cops in one area, you can make a big difference," said Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown.
Police say the issues that have plagued the area range from prostitution to drug dealing.
Salt Lake police's new substation will occupy 837 W. North Temple — a building that was, until recently, an Arctic Circle fast food joint. Inside, it still looks like a place to get a cheeseburger. Outside, a large police badge says otherwise.
"I think it's pretty resourceful," Brown said. "We have a great windowfront property here. It's very visible. ... This puts us at ground zero for some of the problems we're trying to address in this neighborhood."
Six bicycle officers will use the space as a home away from home, according to Brown.
"We're not going to make huge changes in there," Brown said. "They can conduct a brief, they can hang up some charts, they can do some operational work out of here."
While the substation is temporary, Brown said they have no formal plans for how long they'll stay. The department pays a $10 month-to-month lease for the spot.
"This comes from a very generous landowner that really wants to remain anonymous but wants to pay it forward," he said.
Police officers and city officials inaugurated the substation Wednesday with an open house for the community, despite the new operation being in full swing.
"Since July 5, we've kind of kept this under wraps, but we've been doing a little operation here," Brown said. "It's a 30-day operation. In 16 days, we've logged in over 2,240 hours of police work."
In that time, Brown said officers have made 47 felony arrests — 46 of which were drug dealers. Another 107 have gone to jail for other crimes, he said.
"That's surveillance, that's suppression, that's undercover work," Brown said.
The new increase in crime on North Temple comes from those pushed back by Operation Rio Grande, the ongoing effort seeking to reduce drug dealing and other crime in the neighborhood surrounding the Road Home homeless shelter in downtown Salt Lake.
"We made a lot of arrests," Brown said. "But a lot of that crime that was over there moved. And we knew it would."
Business owners are hoping this substation, and the crime crackdown to follow may signal a new wave of opportunity for the area. Lucy Cardenas, the owner of North Temple's renowned restaurant, Red Iguana, has high hopes for the roadway.
"Back in the '60s and '70s, we used to come to North Temple to go bowling, to eat, to go to the movies — it was vibrant," Cardenas said. "And I want to see that come back to this part of town."
Brown said the policing model will stay relentless — finding a problem area and deploying resources.
Brown and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said the North Temple substation is part of the community policing the city has been working toward.
"What we've seen is a tremendous decrease in crime across the city," Biskupski said. "The way we are doing policing is very unique, but it's been very effective."
In some areas in the city, Biskupski and Brown said police efforts have yielded a decrease in crime from 22 to 46 percent.
In a newly created community-policing position, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Devin Stutz will lead the five other officers based at the substation on North Temple.
Every day, Stutz said they will park their cars at the former Arctic Circle, find out the locations that need their attention, and visit them on bikes.
"We'll transition between cars and our bikes depending on what the situation is," Stutz said. "If we need to be visible out there on North Temple on our bikes, we will be. If we need to be more discreet in our vehicles, we will be."
Stutz said this arrangement gives the officers newfound flexibility.
While the building has the department's insignia, it should not be mistaken for a full-fledged police station, according to Brown. At any given time, an officer may not be at the substation. With the new community policing model, the bike officers will be out in the neighborhoods and usually won't be called away for other reported crimes.
"This is where they can come and do the work they need and to be centered and work in this community," Brown said.