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Salt Lake police addressing crime increase with more patrol officers

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A suspect sits in the back of a police car in the parking lot of the Denny’s at 250 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

Adam Fondren, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In an effort to address an increase in crime and a decrease in staffing, the Salt Lake City Police Department announced Wednesday that it is reassigning more officers to patrol duty.

Starting in January, 20 officers will be moved to the patrol division to improve response times “and provide more proactive, visible community-based policing to every corner of the city,” the department said in a statement.

That’s in addition to 18 new officers who recently completed field training and will be assigned to patrol.

“Patrol is the backbone of the police department. When someone has to call 911, they expect the police to get there and get there quickly. Responding to calls for service is the primary function of a police department and will continue to be our focus,” Chief Mike Brown said.

The move to add more patrol officers comes as property crimes and violent crimes are up across the city during 2020, and the department is expected to be down 60 officers by the end of the year due to retirement, resignation and other factors.

The department said moving 20 officers from assignments such as detectives to patrol is only temporary until staffing numbers can be brought back up through hiring.

It is also the first step in what the police department is calling “an overarching plan to reduce crime and foster greater safety throughout the community.”

The increase in calls for police service has also resulted in increased response times from officers. Salt Lake police said Wednesday that they began addressing that problem in October and it has “already led to a reduction in both the number of calls that have not been dispatched, as well as the time it takes for an officer to arrive at the call.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall praised the changes.

“I share the concerns of our community members who want improved safety throughout our city — working on this issue is a priority and primary focus. These immediate shifts and longer-term planning are a reflection of our commitment to the safety and well-being of Salt Lake City’s residents,” she said in a prepared statement.

The department said it is also in talks with local, states and federal law enforcement partners “looking into leveraging collective resources in a coordinated effort to bring chronic offenders to justice.”

Details on those partnerships are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.