Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City are working together in response to the urgent public health and safety crisis in the downtown area. Crime, drug trafficking, and predatory activity against the homeless and other vulnerable populations poses an unacceptable danger to the community.
Operation Diversion takes a careful approach to separate suspected criminals — who should be arrested— from those suffering from mental illness or struggling with alcohol or substance use — who need treatment to achieve stability. A risk and needs assessment by medical professionals helps determine if those arrested for drug possession or use should be diverted to treatment and recovery support in lieu of criminal prosecution.
As part of this effort, outcomes from diversion to treatment are being tracked to provide data for policymakers. This offers an opportunity for better long-term policy decisions about the design and funding of a more successful approach to the criminal justice system.
How this Plan Differs
Operation Diversion coordinates the work of law enforcement, the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Services, the District Attorney’s Office, the Salt Lake Legal Defender’s Office, Salt Lake County Behavioral Health Services and many private treatment providers.
This new approach:
- Involves strategic planning between Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County law enforcement
- Offers an onsite receiving center with risk and needs assessment
- Expands access to prosecutorial diversion
- Provides immediate residential and out-patient treatment for those who need it
- Ensures serious prosecution and jail commitment for hardened criminals
- Enables cross-system data analysis and outcome tracking to inform long-term criminal justice policy decisions
- Helps city and county leaders gather information about overlap between homelessness and criminal justice
Action by Law Enforcement
Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City are engaged in an effort to disrupt repeated patterns of criminal activity and restore safety to the Rio Grande Area.
Depending on their situation and criminal history, individuals who are arrested as part of this operation may be taken to the hospital, booked directly into jail, taken to the receiving center for a thorough risk and needs assessment, or released back into the community.
The receiving center is an innovative approach that provides immediate access to medical screening, public defenders, risk and needs assessment, and a warm hand off to drug/alcohol treatment.
Each individual who participates in the receiving center process has the opportunity to speak to a public defender before agreeing to participate and has a chance to review with an attorney the terms of the diversion agreement. If an individual is eligible for, and agrees to complete treatment in lieu of being charged for his or her criminal activity, Salt Lake City social workers from the Community Connections Team work with law enforcement to provide transportation and a warm hand-off to treatment providers.
Salt Lake County has invested $1.2 million new, one-time county dollars to fund on-demand residential and outpatient behavioral health treatment services for a six-month period.
Salt Lake City has invested $400,000 new city dollars to be spent on the Rio Grande Area, with $100,000 spent on additional police officer presence, and $150,000 on Operation Diversion efforts.
There is an ongoing commitment of resources from both Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City partners toward this effort: