My View: Using what we used to know to ensure healthy communities

By Henri Sisneros

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 7 2014 1:00 p.m. MDT

On May 20, 2014, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank announced that he intends to direct his department’s resources to the Rio Grande District because the concentrated urban environment has led to concentrated problems: 33 percent of the city’s crime occurs there, and almost 1 out of 5 police calls are made there.

Sheriff Burbank brings the wisdom of Sheriff Andy from the imaginary town of Mayberry to the toughest streets of our city.

For example, traffic enforcement in high-crime areas deters crime effectively and affordably.

Like drug and re-entry courts, these practices changed the DNA of progressive law enforcement agencies. They put public servants back into the neighborhoods they serve. They are what works as crime rates have been cut in half over the last 20 years.

We sometimes think of officers in black tactical gear, armed with military-style rifles. We should also focus on neighborhood officers, walking the beat, who know the communities they work in and lead community partners to address chronic public safety issues.

As good citizens concerned with how public monies are spent, we must ask: “What’s the bill for this?”

Chris Burbank’s answer: There is none. He intends to use the fine officers he already has.

Not one more dollar spent? A safer community? A commitment to what works means we must formally access later whether the strategies worked. So we have to stay tuned.

Henri Sisneros is a criminal lawyer and justice system leader from Salt Lake City. After graduating from Stanford Law School, he worked as an assistant United States attorney and assistant federal defender.

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