I am not from Utah and I do not live there. I have had occasion to visit there during my many travels. It is a majestically beautiful place in the spring and summer, winter it’s just too damn cold. The one thing most people think of when they hear Utah is "Mormons" and Utah has more than a few of those. By in large Mormons are considered to be mostly conservative folks which is why what is happening in Utah is so strange to me. Robert F. Kennedy once said “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” Citizens of Utah, keep that thought in mind as you watch the evil around you rise and the law enforcement become more and more ineffective. Not ineffective by choice but by appointed and elected officials forwarding their agenda and clipping the wings of law enforcement. What is going on seems so counter to the conservative mindset it’s hard to imagine its happening in Utah.
Before I dig in to the meat and potatoes of it I need to back up and tell a tale of two cities. Things will make more sense after I do so. I tried to think of the city most similar to Salt Lake City in the US and I came up with Mesa Arizona. Salt Lake City Utah and Mesa Arizona have a lot in common. Both cities were settled by Mormon settlers and both still have a mostly Mormon influence. Mesa AZ’s crime rate looks something like this 4.13 Violent crimes per 1000 (the national average is 3.9) residents, 34.00 Property Crimes per 1000 residents, for a total of 38.13 total crimes per 1000 residents. Compared to Salt Lake City’s crime rate of 6.46 violent crimes per 1000 residents (again the national average is 3.9), Property crimes 71.21 per 1000 Residents and a total 77.66 crimes per 1000 residents.
I know what you’re thinking, it has to be because Salt Lake is so much bigger than Mesa, right? Well, that is not exactly true, in fact it’s not even close to true. Mesa is the 38th largest city in the nation and Salt Lake City is 124th. Salt Lake has a population of about 190,000 residents and Mesa has nearly 460,000 residents, yup surprisingly Mesa has more than double the population of Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City comprises about 110 Square miles so that means it has about 1727 residents per square mile. Mesa comprises 133 square miles which makes the population density something like 3458 residents per square mile. Salt Lake has 391 sworn officers for a ratio of 485 residents per officer and Mesa has 773 sworn officers for a total of 595 residents per officer.
By now you are probably wondering what is going on? How can a city with more than double the population and pretty much worse ratios when it comes to population density and officers per citizens have such a better grasp on keeping crime in check? Culturally both cities are more similar than not. Both have Mormon influence and values associated with its rules and expectations. Both have a grip of Mormons living there. Being that Arizona is a border state Mesa is about two and a half hours from the border so it gets its fair share of border crime and Salt Lake is about 13 hours from the border. Another anomaly particular to Mesa is that Mesa has over 120 Halfway house and 65% of all of the prisoners that get paroled out of Department of Corrections Prisons come to Mesa. What does that mean? It means that it has an above average amount of known offenders in the city.
So why are there such dramatic differences in crime rates? Well first off, the Chiefs of both organizations are as different as can be. One seems to be focused on his next career (politics?) and the other on the task at hand. The chief of Mesa PD is Frank Milstead who is a career cop who pushes his officers to increase street level drug arrests and to actively make criminals lives harder. He has told his officers that he wants criminals to draw the conclusion that Mesa is a bad place to be a criminal. He is constantly tasking officers with more aggressive policing to reduce crime by actively working on maintenance issues like the homeless drinking and sleeping in public, loitering, panhandling and other quality of life related issues; and it has worked, apparently since Milstead has been chief the crime rate in Mesa is as low as it has been since 1963 for crimes per 1000 residents according to AZCentral.com.(Video) Salt Lake on the other hand is run by Chief Chris Burbank who looks more like a politician than a cop. In fact he met with Attorney General Eric Holder about Arizona’s Immigration laws. Wait, what? He met with the AG about Arizona’s immigration laws but Chief Milstead a Chief of a department twice the size of Burbanks from the state that is affected by the laws did not? Mesa is 179 miles about two and a half hours from the Mexican border and Salt Lake is nearly 900 miles and more than 13 hours from the border. Okay, you may also remember him being the face of the anti assault weapons Chiefs after Sandy Hook. I wonder how many of the 6-8 murders a year are committed with assault weapons? I think nationally only 323 murders were committed with all forms of rifle .22 to .50 cal (including all forms of assault weapons and hunting rifles too), the vast majority nearly 9000 were with handguns. But that did not stop him from jumping on the anti assault weapon bandwagon. It seems that he jumps on a lot of political band wagons outside of his state. But why not, Salt Lake City is well and truly under control crime wise right? Oops, that’s not really the case is it?
Chief Burbank tells his officers to avoid stirring the pot on immigration and doesn’t put enough emphases on hassling the drug market down in the Pioneer Park area. He even asked officers to stop citing transients for sleeping in public for a while to simply appease a small group who protested about it. In SLC they rarely book criminals on misdemeanor warrants (Mesa books on all warrants unless they have a medical reason that the jail won't take them) and only utilize these smaller warrants as a last resort basis. Not all of the blame for this fiasco goes to Chief Burbank though, But I still blame him for not standing up and leading to fix it. Judge Baxter allegedly throws most of the charges out for the same things that Chief Milstead in Mesa has his officers do in an effort to reduce crime. Chief Milstead works with the prosecutor’s office to get integrate them into its maintenance projects including one similar to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake. In Mesa there were problems with hundreds of homeless who were wreaking havoc at Gurrero Rotary Park. A zero tolerance approach for a 1 mile radius was adopted and the prosecutor assigned got every case and worked closely with the street officers to help mitigate the issues. Guess what? Crime went down in that area. People could let their kids play in the park again and didn’t have to worry about stepping in human waste or drug paraphernalia. In Salt Lake City Chief Burbank lets the prosecutors further their liberal agenda any way they chose without so much as a peep. Are you starting to see why the crime rates are so different? The difference is SLC says “criminals, you are welcome to do business here as long as you do not cause too big of problems” and Mesa says “Criminals, you are not welcome to do business here and we will do everything constitutionally and morally possible to make you want to leave and take your crime elsewhere”.
I should probably explain something here that most law enforcement officers know and if they do not it's because they are an administrator and not a cop. You rarely arrest a drug dealer for dealing drugs or a burglar for burglary. Drug dealers try to shield themselves from the dope so they have a different person hold the money and yet another hold the stash and so on. Burglars and sneaky bastards, which is they have taken your stuff when you didn’t want them to. Most burglars get arrested for drug possession or drug paraphernalia possession because they are sneaky bastards, but they are dope fiends, but still sneaky. Drug dealers get arrested for loitering since they are not holding the dope. The deal is you arrest them for whatever chicken shit charges whenever you can arrest them and on the rare occasion that you get to arrest them for the actual crimes it’s a good day. But locking them up on lesser charges makes the street safer if only temporarly. Think about this, as the prison population has grown in the US the crime rate has dropped. So the effective model for reducing crime is to incarcerate the 10% that commit 90% of the crime. Salt Lake Officers want to do this but they are not allowed to. Chief Burbank was named Utahn of the year in 2011 by the SLC Tribune. “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on”. So it looks like you have the Law Enforcement you insist on and let’s take a look at the criminals you deserve. How about Curtis Allgier. Read here
I have to make something clear, I am not saying Salt Lake PD is assed up and Mesa PD isn’t. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and both are great agencies filled with great officers. It’s just that they have very different types of leadership running them, which yield very different results. I think the point I am trying to make is, Utah, you are getting the law enforcement you insist on, but is that what you really want? It is clear that the issues do not lay squarely at the feet of Chief Burbank. Its woven into the elected and appointed culture and I don’t know why. It really does not make sense to me. But the District Attorney Sam Gill tries with every possible opportunity to prosecute officers on nearly every officer involved shooting. Even ones that seem so cut and dry, its hard to comprehend. Again, you Utahns are getting what you insist on. Don’t think of the Robert Kennedy quote as the rank and file officers but the institution of law enforcement in general. Is this really what you want?
To compound this issue you have other activist judges in Utah like Justice Nehring who in a recent ruling surmised that although its never happened before but he thinks officer should be responsible for the welfare of a fleeing suspect. That means if a suspect tries to run and gets hurt it’s the officers responsibility and the officer should be allowed to be sued. Um…Utah…Hello? What officer is going to chase any suspect ever again? They could run right into your home and the liability is too high to chase them. It used to be that they would try to stop them from getting into your home now, if they get injured in the process, it’s on the officer. Utah, you may want to start treating criminals like criminals and soccer moms like soccer moms. When you start putting the welfare of criminals at the same level as soccer moms you are sure to end up upside down. Good luck with this one Utah, can you see how this is going to turn out?