Month: August 2017

Operation Rio Grande Update

In an unprecedented manner, state, local and federal leaders; law enforcement agencies; and public, private and non-profit organizations came together to address the lawlessness occurring in the Rio Grande district in Salt Lake City.

The 3-phase Operation Rio Grande plan is a result multi-jurisdictional collaboration to improve public safety and restore order in anticipation of the Road Home closing and new resource centers beginning operations in July of 2019. The purpose of this operation is to address the lawlessness in the Rio Grande area, bring criminal activity to a halt, get individuals treatment they might need and connect them with employment and housing opportunities.

The 3-phases consist of:

  • Phase 1 – Public Safety and Restoring Order: Focus is on law enforcement, identifying and arresting dangerous criminals who are preying on the most vulnerable.
  • Phase 2 – Assessment and Treatment: Provide assessment and treatment for addiction and behavioral disorders to those in the Rio Grande District.
  • Phase 3 – Dignity of Work: Public and private organizations are working together to increase employment opportunities and training to this population.

Operation Rio Grande started on August 14. The goal is to lock up dangerous criminals who have preyed on our most vulnerable citizens. Since then, 852 arrests have been made, of which 72 were felony arrest, 82 were felony arrest with warrants, 155 were misdemeanors and 543 were misdemeanor arrests with warrants.

The Rio Grande area has already seen improvements since the operation began two and a half weeks ago. Law and order is being restored, resulting in greater safety and access to homeless services for individuals in need. Additionally, those in need are being directed to available services.

The state is committed to maintaining and enhancing the law enforcement presence in and around the Rio Grande area for the next two years. This process will restore the civil liberties and personal security of those who live and work around Pioneer Park and those experiencing homelessness. It will also connect those in need with social services available in the area.

The next vital step is to create a secure area for those experiencing homelessness to be protected from the criminal element. Developing a safe space is critical to the immediate and long-term goals of the operation to increase public safety and reduce criminal activity that plagues the area. It will also help service providers identify and understand each individual seeking services in the area, in order to tailor and enhance services for each individual. Examples of enhanced services include outreach and engagement, housing connection resources, directing individuals to employment opportunities outside of the area, and enabling individuals to exit homelessness on a pathway to self-sufficiency.

In anticipation of this safe space, a minimal section of Rio Grande Street, between two existing facilities, is recommended for closure. This closure will not prevent access to any business or organization in the area. In fact, those currently receiving services are required to cross the street daily – with beds on one side of the street and meals, employment and ID services on the other.

This safe space has always been a part of the Operation Rio Grande strategy in an effort to reduce homelessness and improve public safety in the area. Diverse stakeholders – the State of Utah, Salt Lake County, service providers in the area and the Pioneer Park Coalition – agree that closing the street is critical to achieving both the immediate, medium and long-term goals of the operation.

Shelters are not long-term solutions for the homeless. Plans are being implemented to increase housing, residential rehabilitation, healthcare and behavioral healthcare. This will reduce and prevent the length of homelessness, as well as keep individuals exiting homelessness on a path of self-sufficiency.

Components of the operation include law enforcement (28%), jail beds (22%) treatment beds (28%) and housing and services (22%). The initial estimated cost of Operation Rio Grande is $67 million over two years. The three primary jurisdictions—State of Utah, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City—are working to secure funding for the areas that make up the operation.

Nearly one-third of the total cost, $20 million, will be absorbed within existing budgets. Partners have identified offsets and sources to cover more than another third, $27 million. We are working with the private sector and other government entities to identify the funding and resources available for the remaining one-third needed, approximately $21 million.

Citizens have expressed concerns about the scattering of the Rio Grande population into surrounding neighborhoods. Dispersal was anticipated and has always been part of the operational budget and law enforcement strategy. Law enforcement officials will pursue and arrest criminals as they move throughout the state.

If you are aware of illegal activity, please report it to your local police department. If it is an emergency, call 911.

Visit for additional information including FAQs, details of the operation, previous press conferences, articles and more. Updated information is continually added.

Operation Rio Grande – News Recap

Speaker Greg Hughes said during interviews today that he believes it is important to be open and transparent about stumbling blocks throughout the Operation Rio Grande process. The lives we are protecting shouldn’t be forfeited over the budget that is why it is necessary to create a safe space now.

Listen to Speaker Hughes and Lt. Gov on the Doug Wright Show:

Speaker Greg Hughes talks with Doug Wright about Operation Rio Grande – 1

Speaker Greg Hughes talks with Doug Wright about Operation Rio Grande – 2

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on Doug Wright

ICYMI – News Articles*

Deseret News

Deseret News

Good 4 Utah 

Salt Lake Tribune


Additional news articles will be added as it become available.

Missing and Exploited Children’s Day

During the 2017 General Session, Rep. Steve Handy sponsored H.B. 53, Missing and Exploited Children’s Day. It passed the Utah Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor. The purpose of the H.B. 53 is to call attention to missing and exploited children in Utah.

“I was very pleased to lead this effort and appreciate the support of my many colleagues and Governor Herbert,” said Rep. Handy. “The exploitation, abduction and abuse of children is intolerable and anything we can do to stop this evil is in the best interests of everyone.”

Utah’s first official Rachael Runyan Missing and Exploited Children’s Day was held at the Rachael Runyan Memorial Park in Sunset on Saturday, August 26.

“Anything and everything we can do to call attention to this effort and save the lives of innocent children is critical and we in the Utah Department of Public Safety applaud this effort,” said Gina McNeil, Utah Amber Alert and Utah Missing Person’s Coordinator.

Rachael Runyan was abducted from a playground in Sunset, Utah and subsequently murdered in 1982.

The notification system to alert the public when a child has been abducted in Utah started with Elaine Runyan, mother of Rachael, as well as others who played significant roles to create an alert system, was referred to as the Rachael Alert.

“During those awful days, there was little coordination and no way to alert the public. said Runyan. “Who knows if we would have found Rachael had there been an Amber Alert in 1982. We can only hope to prevent what our family experienced to ever happening again with the designation of this special day.”

In 2003, U.S. Congress passed a national alert system – AMBER Alert. Not wanting to have any confusion when working to save a child who has been abducted, the state changed the name of the notification system from the Rachael Alert to the AMBER Alert to coincide with national efforts.

Utah’s AMBERAlert is tested twice yearly –January 13 and August 26 – a date chosen specifically calling attention to the abduction date of Rachael.

News story:

Fox 13 News:  Murdered Sunset girl honored on Utah’s first Missing and Exploited Children Day


Media Alert: Missing and Exploited Children’s Day in Utah

For Immediate Release
Media Alert
August 25, 2017


Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 |

Missing and Exploited Children’s Day in Utah

Salt Lake City –  During the 2017 General Session, Rep. Steve Handy and Sen. Stuart Adams sponsored HB 53, Missing and Exploited Children’s Day. It passed the Utah Legislature and signed into law. The purpose of the bill, and following the lead of many other states, including the National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, is to call attention to missing and exploited children in Utah.

Utah’s first official Rachael Runyan Missing and Exploited Children’s Day will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, 2017, at the Rachael Runyan Memorial Park in Sunset.

Utah’s AMBER Alert is tested twice yearly, on January 13, and August 26, a date chosen specifically calling attention to the abduction date of Rachael.

To call attention to the plight of missing and exploited children in Utah.

Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

Rachel Runyan Memorial Park, 200 W 975 N Sunset, Utah

Rep. Steve Handy, District 16, Layton
Sunset Chief of Police Ken Eborn
Member of Utah’s Amber Alert Team
Elaine Runyan, mother of Rachael Runyan




Restoring public safety to downtown – Rio Grande district

Operation Rio Grande started Monday morning. Phase one of Operation Rio Grande is to arrest and lock up dangerous criminals who have preyed on our most vulnerable citizens. This operation is the result of unprecedented cooperation between state and local law enforcement agencies and leaders working together.

Utah has committed two years to maintain and enhanced law enforcement presence in and around the Rio Grande area. This operation will not be limited to just the Rio Grande area, criminals who scatter will be pursued and arrested.

It will also restore civil liberties of peace and personal security to those who live and work around Pioneer Park and those seeking social services offered in the Rio Grande district.

“We are focusing on this lawlessness and this eco-system of crime – and wherever it goes. It is not just clearing a geographical area; it is not just making sure the Rio Grande area is safe, but it is making sure that this growing cartel or enterprise is shut down and shut down for good. We are committed to protecting the public.” – Speaker Greg Hughes.

Watch the news conference where Speaker Greg Hughes, Lt. Governor Cox and DPS Commissioner Keith Squires, along with state and local officials explain Operation Rio Grande here.