Crime and Operation Rio Grande—Part III

By Michelle Miller


Pioneer Park Coalition is dedicated to keeping an eye on crime data for Salt Lake City in the year following Operation Rio Grande. We wrote two previous blogs about crime at Operation Rio Grande’s beginning. I am now revisiting crime stats after the one-year mark. The news remains similar: crime is low city-wide post-Operation Rio Grande, rates continue to be much lower in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area, but there are some neighborhoods that need attention (Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale).

In our previous blogs we highlighted Salt Lake City’s crime rates from 2013 through 2017 in select neighborhoods. We focused on serious crimes (aggravated assault, burglary, rape/sexual assault, homicide, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and robbery) as well as non-serious crimes (curfew/loitering, disorderly conduct, drug abuse, stolen property, vandalism, and drunkenness). We focused solely on Salt Lake City because Salt Lake City Police Department has the most transparent and accessible crime data for public access. If we could get the other cities data we would look at it too. The following graphic is a look at crime rates up to December 2017:


Statistics for serious and non-serious crimes in the specified locations between January 2013 and December 2017.

Statistics for serious and non-serious crimes in the specified locations between January 2013 and December 2017.

Now, let’s take a look to see what’s been happening between October 2013 and September 2018:


We kept the majority of neighborhoods the same and included the Poplar Grove and Glendale neighborhoods. We chose these neighborhoods based on where we have heard Operation Rio Grande has dispersed crime. The statistics show a gemerally positive story, especially in the downtown area. As you can see there was a spike in August 2018 which can probably be attributed to hotter weather and longer days. Weather patterns create a natural ebb and flow to crime rates as can be observed in the data. 

But this story is not entirely positive at the neighborhood level. Some specific areas have failed to see drops in crime or may have even experienced increases. To better illuminate what’s happening in surrounding areas, here is the same graph excluding downtown:


If you feel your neighborhood has been excluded, we apologize. We are trying to focus on the neighborhoods facing the most problems. To see what’s happening in your neighborhood, we encourage you to go to the Salt Lake City Police Department website and play around with it. As this graph shows, there are some neighborhoods that have not moved in the right direction. In particular, Salt Lake City should be giving more attention to the Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale neighborhoods.

An overview of all neighborhoods for all crimes paints a continued positive picture. Since the start of Operation Rio Grande, crime has decreased to near historic lows in the last five years across Salt Lake City:


Something worth mentioning—this data is inclusive of everyone committing crimes in Salt Lake City and is not exclusive to the homeless population. Being homeless is not a crime. The mere sight of people experiencing homelessness does not necessarily mean a crime has been or will be committed. This crime data does not mean that there was not some dispersion of people experiencing homelessness into surrounding neighborhoods since Operation Rio Grande. If that is true, not all people experiencing homelessness are committing crimes and not all people who commit crimes are homeless.

In summary, Operation Rio Grande continues to be a huge net positive on crime rates in the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande neighborhood and Salt Lake City, as a whole. Central City, Poplar Grove, and Glendale, however, need more attention.