Since Project Safe Neighborhoods was launched in January 2021 to leverage federal partnerships and combat a surge in violent crime that Salt Lake City has experienced in recent years, city officials are saying that the impact of the project has been significant.

Already, 27 guns have been removed from the streets this year, 12 of which were reported stolen. Additionally, 24 defendants have been charged with "significant" crimes, as a result of the safe neighborhood project, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said Tuesday.

Since the project was launched in 2021, 221 guns and 200 criminals are off the streets, and those convicted are serving an average of 38 months behind bars, she said.

"If anybody out there hears us today — I hope those who are repeating these kind of apex crimes hear us most of all," Mendenhall said. "You're going to go away, you're going to be off the streets for an average of 3 1/2 years. There is a complete system that is running like a well-oiled machine after 14 months of operation and we will get you."

The collaboration with the U.S. attorney; the state Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshal's Office; the Unified Police Department; and the Utah Highway Patrol has led to a 4.1% drop in violent crime in the capital city from 2021 to 2022.

"This is an incredible partnership of overlapping and shared goals, coordination and pooling of resources to get a job done that, alone, we couldn't do this well," Mendenhall said.

Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said a major focus of the project is centered around the proliferation of guns and drugs within the community.

"With every drug and gun seized, Project Safe Neighborhood program (is) making the city safer and healthier," Brown said.

In addition to the 200-plus guns that have been taken off the streets, Utah U.S. Attorney Andrea Martinez noted that the project has helped seize more than 108 pounds of methamphetamine.

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While the partnerships between federal entities and Utah law enforcement are undoubtedly valuable, FBI Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice said that the importance of a partnership with the community cannot be understated.

"It's you sharing what you know about what's going on in the community with us so that we can take action and use our laws to enforce and reduce this violence," Rice said. "So, please, do your part. If you notice information out there about drugs or guns, please, we ask you to report it so that we can take action."

Despite the program’s accomplishments, everyone involved in Project Safe Neighborhoods noted that the work toward building a safer Salt Lake City is far from finished.

"There is no end here," Martinez said. "We will continue to do what we need to do to keep our communities and our streets safe and we are moving right along, as we need to in the coming months, as we move into our spring and summer of 2022."

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