Salt Lake City ended 2021 on a high note when it came to the city's crime rate, according to city leaders.
Over the past 28 days, overall crime in the city was down 11.3% compared to the previous 28 days, said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, including an 18.4% drop in violent crime. The mayor called the improved crime numbers "very good news" and was also pleased that the city's updated crime control plan laid out in November appeared to be working.
Mendenhall and Police Chief Mike Brown released the city's latest crime statistics on Wednesday. Brown said from the first week of 2021 through Dec. 26, overall crime in Salt Lake was down 5.4% from the year before.
But the mayor noted that "by no means" did that mean there was an absence of crime in Salt Lake City.
Over the past 28 days, the chief said five of Salt Lake City's seven districts saw a decrease in crime. But during that same time, there was a 33% increase in weapons offenses, mainly in the two districts that did not see an overall drop in crime. Weapons offenses can include any incident in which a weapon — whether it be a gun or a knife or something — is used in the commission of crime.
Many of those offenses involved guns, prompting Brown on Wednesday to repeat his call for an end to gun violence.
"I continue to plead with our community, especially the youth of our community, it's time to end this violence. Put down your guns. Let's start 2022 anew. Let's find better ways to resolve and handle conflict. When there's a fight or a disagreement, a dispute, let's just walk away. Reaching for a gun and pulling the trigger will have unimaginable consequences and trauma for the shooter, the victim, their family and our entire community," he said.
Also on Wednesday, Brown was pleased to report that the average response time for an officer responding to a "priority 1 call in December was 10 minutes and 46 seconds, which is more than two minutes faster than November and an improvement of six minutes from the department's highest average response time in August.
Brown credited the addition of officers who are taking non-priority 1 calls over the telephone. From Oct. 22 through Jan. 3, the department handed 2,100 calls for service on the phone, with 30% of those ultimately requiring a police report being written. That's approximately 630 reports that officers on the street didn't have to write, thus freeing them up to respond to their next call, he said.
As of Wednesday, the Salt Lake City Police Department was still down 58 officers. But Brown said a new group of 25 people will begin their first class on Monday in their journey to ultimately join the force as full-time officers.
Mendenhall said even though the latest statistics are good, the city won't stop in its efforts to improve.
"It is our fundamental job to keep our people safe," she said. "We take it incredibly seriously."