Salt Lake County’s mayor focuses on crime and homelessness

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SALT LAKE CITY- Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams wants Utah’s largest county to focus on reducing crime and homelessness within the local area with the help of a new online tool.

McAdams delivered his State of County address Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Salt Lake County Government Center.

“We are accountable for every decision we make during our time in office,” McAdams said. “It is our duty to serve the public and make progress on issues that confront residents.”

McAdams announced that the county’s new initiative is to set and reach “specific and measurable goals.” He spoke on the importance of county officials being able to assess where they are currently at, and find new ways of innovating, thinking, and acting. “We benchmark, we set goals, we measure, and we continuously improve.”

Mayor Ben McAdams as he prepare to answer questions to the media following his State of the County address.
Mayor Ben McAdams as he prepared to answer questions to the media following his State of the County address in Salt Lake City.

A new online system was introduced to the public that will give residents more access to information about what the government is doing and what projects are specifically being done throughout the community. Salt Lake Metro Stat will now be available to the public and will give everyone the opportunity to become more aware to information that McAdams said “they deserve to know.” It will also show in what areas officials and residents can work together to improve upon. McAdams hopes that the use of this system will help legislators and other government officials to know where their priorities should lie.

McAdams spoke specifically about areas that already need improvement including finding new ways of helping Utah’s incarcerated citizens. The system is currently taking up millions of tax dollars every year, and so he is calling for the development of a new system. McAdams, and other Salt Lake County officials, want to focus on more specific treatment options for low level offenders rather than just incarceration alone.

“We need to promote substance abuse and mental health treatment as viable and widely available alternatives to jail.”

Planning for a community corrections center will begin soon. This will be a secure facility that includes treatment beds as an alternative to jail beds. They will be received and evaluated to see how high of a risk they pose to the community and if treatment would be a more effective and cheaper alternative than an automatic jail sentence. The treatment center will include counseling, classes on self sufficiency, and help low level offenders find opportunities to integrate back into their communities with the hope that they won’t offend again.

“These are tough problems to solve,” said McAdams, “but Salt Lake County has chosen to see it as an opportunity to think differently about our programs… and produce measurably better results.”

McAdams hopes that the change in mental health treatment for inmates will help to decrease the crime rate in the Salt Lake area and also help those individuals to avoid homelessness once they are released. The homelessness rates in the area are increasing dramatically, despite efforts that totaled nearly 52 million dollars in spending last year. McAdams made a call for change. “It starts with the commitment that everyone has a safe place to live,” he said.

By partnering with the Legislature to help with this problem, McAdams says that “there is a reason to be optimistic” and that “we are going to make the biggest dent ever in the problem of homelessness.”

The county plans to work directly with the Legislature by working more closely with homeless shelter providers to know what specific needs should be met and create more appropriate living conditions in the homeless shelter facilities.

Both of these projects and their progress, along with many more, can be found by using the new Metro Stat dashboard program.

Those in attendance were pleased with the efforts being made and eager to begin working with the new Metro Stat program. “I can hardly wait to see the improvements this will make within the community and within the government,” said an attendee in the audience.

McAdams said “Here is our ultimate goal and ultimate outcome: to build a healthy community, a greater Salt Lake, through healthy people, healthy places, expanded opportunity, and a responsive government.”

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