SOUTH SALT LAKE Police Chief Chris Snyder publicly defended his police department Tuesday in response to allegations that the department is understaffed and has been lax in response times.
His comments come the day after a South Salt Lake resident went to the media with requests that the City Council look at dismantling its 70-year-old department to contract with the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.
"I think the city is heading in the right direction," Snyder said. "We are working to combat crime, and we'll continue to push the envelope in new methods and techniques."
Snyder said the high crime rate in South Salt Lake can be attributed to many things, including a high daytime population in the city and unique socio-economic and demographic issues. His department has also suffered from a high turnover in leadership but is making progress, he said.
The resident, Brian Goldhardt, has garnered the support of about 90 of his neighbors and has met with each council member and the mayor over his discontent with the police department. He has also met with the sheriff's office, which has agreed to make a presentation to the city concerning contracting.
However, Goldhardt did not meet with Snyder, who learned of the discontent only through media reports.
"I wish he would have taken the time to contact us," Snyder said. "We surely encourage (concerned citizens) to contact us. We'll do whatever we can to accommodate them."
Goldhardt has pointed to his city's high crime rate in saying law enforcement services need to be changed. He is also upset over his home being broken into three days in a row and the tires of many cars in his neighborhood being slashed in May 2007.
The tires were slashed even though police were called about the vandalism in progress, Goldhardt said. The police took 20 minutes to arrive, he said Monday.
However, Snyder released information Tuesday showing that police took just over 2 minutes to arrive, though they took longer to contact Goldhardt's neighbor, who made the police call after seeing the tires being slashed. No arrests were made in the incident.
Goldhardt said Tuesday that he's not totally in favor of dismantling the police department but rather wants the council to look at making public safety improvements.
Snyder said he thinks all residents' opinions are valuable and that he has nothing bad to say about the sheriff's office, but feels his department is well-equipped to handle the needs of the city."They have a lot to offer, but we have a lot to offer as well," he said.