SALT LAKE CITY — In its fourth week, Operation Rio Grande’s arrests have mounted to over 1,000 — but that wasn’t why county leaders were celebrating Thursday.
At nearly the same time law enforcement officers conducted a major drug raid of a Salt Lake City home at 6 a.m., a team of lawyers and social workers began work inside the Salt Lake County Jail that has never been done before, Salt Lake County McAdams announced in a news conference.
“This,” the mayor said, “is phase two in action.”
The team of criminal justice workers began making assessments of people arrested in Operation Rio Grande who are eligible for the new “specialty drug court” that will be launched next week. The new court’s goal is to streamline efforts to help drug users embroiled in the court system to not only sober up, but also clean up their criminal records.
At the same time, 37 new treatment beds for substance abusers became available Thursday, McAdams said, which will pull people eligible for treatment out of jail and free up jail space for more-violent criminals.
The 37 beds are the first of 256 new detox and treatment beds slated to open by the end of 2017.
Of the 37 beds, 26 will expand capacity for the Odyssey House, 10 for First Step House, and one for House of Hope, according to county officials.
First Step House Director Shawn McMillen said the beds were created in a space originally used as transitional housing.
“Public safety in the Rio Grande area, including less crime and fewer victims of crime, is one of the reasons for the remarkable partnership between city, county and state leaders,” McAdams said. “And the results of this partnership are obvious. Much of the chaos, lawlessness and danger is subsiding.”
As of Thursday morning, 1,023 arrests had been made since the beginning of Operation Rio Grande nearly four weeks ago, according to Utah Highway Patrol Maj. Jess Anderson.
Of those, 180 were for felonies, 843 were for misdemeanors, Anderson said, noting that just eight cases required use of force.
The major also said as of Monday, 57 of those arrested have been arrested twice, six have been arrested three times and two have been arrested four times.
Also, 676 have been released either due to jail overcrowding, on bail or for court, according to Justin Hoyal, chief deputy of the Salt Lake…