W.V. police chief vows to clean up Lake Park area

The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT) WEST VALLEY CITY -- Standing on a concrete slab with weeds poking through the cracks and curious neighbors looking on, local and federal law enforcement authorities declared they are helping Lake Park residents clean up their neighborhood.Located just off Redwood Road near 2500 South, the small neighborhood full of fourplex apartments has been the site of a 14-month combined investigation between West Valley City Police, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and federal agents.Police served three search warrants and arrested six people Thursday morning just after midnight. Of the 55 people charged with drug or weapons violations in Lake Park, 43 have now been arrested, said special agent in charge Jeff Finn. Since the investigation began, police have served 12 search warrants and seized drugs, guns, money and vehicles.During Thursday afternoon's brief press conference announcing the crime plan police installed signs declaring Lake Park part of West Valley City's "Model Neighborhood Program.""We're going to show all the citizens here how to combat criminal groups," said West Valley City police chief Alan Kerstein. "We want to restore the quality of this neighborhood."Kerstein developed a similar plan during his tenure with the Los Angeles Police Department, and plans to spread the enforcement to other trouble spots after cleaning up Lake Park."It's a real down-to-earth program," Kerstein said. "This is not going to survive without the community members."Police have contacted landlords of each of the roughly 40 buildings in the neighborhood, telling them of the program and asking for their cooperation in keeping up their buildings and reporting crime activity.Any landlord not in compliance will have 30 days to change before authorities begin seizing their property, Kerstein said."We're not going to tolerate an owner operating a mini slum," Kerstein said.Residents of the neighborhood seem to welcome the beefed-up police presence.In the two months his family has lived in Lake Park, 12-year-old Zach Sisan has seen shootings, robberies and several cars speeding through the neighborhood. His parents already want to move away, he said."I see things happen," Sisan said. "There's lots of crimes committed here."Raymond Long has lived in Lake Park for more than two years, and says he feels unsafe."I think they should come here and they should clean this place up," Long said. "There's a lot of drug dealers around here."The increased police activity over the past year has been financed by the HUD Office of the Inspector General's "Operation Safe Home" program."We're trying to get together with our local partners and make public and assisted housing safe," Finn said.After first discussing the plan 14 months ago law enforcement officers began implementing the program about six months ago.At the close of Thursday's press conference, Kerstein pointed to a white board with mug shots of several of the 55 suspected criminals in the area and said, "We're going to come back here a year from today and you're not going to see one picture on the board."

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