With over six years of community leadership service in the Ballpark Community Council and the Ballpark Neighborhood Watch, serving as Vice-Chair starting in 2015, then Chair for the past two years, Amy has firsthand knowledge of the significant changes to our neighborhood, including rapid population growth, the effects of Operation Rio Grande, a new Homeless Resource Center, and the significant recent increase of violent crime.
As Vice-Chair and Chair of the Ballpark Community Council, I have facilitated dialogue between the city and its residents, highlighting the need to address public safety issues in our neighborhood, while also serving on our neighborhood’s homeless shelter community advisory board.
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The Ballpark’s 2020 homicide rate is a key priority with 1 homicide for every 1,533 residents, a staggering 25% of Salt Lake City’s homicides are happening in our Ballpark district. However, the population of Ballpark is a little more than 3% of the total population of SLC. I can’t accept that our 3% of the city should shoulder 25% of our city’s murders without significant plans to address our problems.
My efforts to draw attention and resources to these issues have regularly been covered in our local press, see coverage here.
My name is Amy J. Hawkins. I am a community leader, a scientist, and an educator. I moved to Salt Lake City in 2011 to work in a research laboratory at the University of Utah, and like so many others, stayed for the quality of life here in this city. While access to good health care is critically important, it’s things like the safety of our neighborhoods, the green spaces we play in, access to good jobs with fair pay, and the affordability and stability of our housing that are what can keep us healthy in the first place.
That was immediately made clear to me when I moved to the Ballpark neighborhood in 2014 and realized that the house across the street was occupied by residents who regularly engaged in drug dealing, domestic violence, and stealing weapons, vehicles, and other property. I quickly helped organize a response by reviving a Neighborhood Watch group with long-term residents of the neighborhood. After the drug dealers were arrested (Salt Lake Police Department report #14-153863, Read More) and evicted, the difference in our area of the community was palpable and immediate. We felt safer, and I wanted to make it happen again.
I joined the Ballpark Community Council in 2015, served as Vice-Chair from 2016 – 2018, then Chair for the past 3 years. While I’ve served in leadership we’ve dealt with some significant changes to our neighborhood: rapid population growth specific to our side of District 5, the effects of Operation Rio Grande, a new Homeless Resource Center, and in the past three years in particular, a significant amount of violent crime. In July 2019, after the fourth homicide in less than a year within a two-block area of our neighborhood near 1300 South, I knew we needed to mount a community response. I wrote and circulated an Anti-Violence letter (Read More), collecting signatures from 62 elected officials (including then-Council Member Erin Mendenhall, State Senator Derek Kitchen, and then-Ballpark Board Member Darin Mano), community stakeholders, small business owners, and residents, asking for practical, measurable solutions to our neighborhood’s problems with homicide and violence. While that letter and subsequent public meetings have not solved our community’s public safety issues, it started the public conversation that needs to happen so that our neighborhood can receive public safety resources, including increased police presence at locations known to be hot spots for criminal activity.
I continue to advocate with the Central 9th Community Council on policies that could shift the built environment in our neighborhood to make it less hospitable to crime. However, the 61.8% increase in violent crime—particularly the 250% increase in homicides (7 homicides compared to our 5-year average of 2 homicides)—and the 24% increase in property crime that we experienced in District 5 in 2020 continues to alarm me.
I have a proven track record of success as a community leader and am a strong advocate for data-driven analysis in working on local policy issues. My successes include:
(1) Increasing Access to and Safety in Public Spaces: In 2021, I secured a $500,000 appropriation from the Salt Lake City budget for a “bike and pedestrian byway” on Kensington Avenue that focuses on improvements that will create a safer corridor connecting the entirety of Salt Lake City’s District 5 from east to west. This is an area of high crime for our neighborhood. The Ballpark neighborhood in particular has experienced multiple shootings on Kensington Avenue this year, and a homicide in 2018 and 2020. I believe that bringing more eyes and feet to the street will help naturally deter crime and promote public health.
(2) Fighting Addiction through Education: In 2018, I secured $150,000 of state funding from the Utah legislature for a science-based opioid crisis curriculum for Utah high school students. Salt Lake City’s homelessness crisis is also a crisis of addiction, and I wanted to develop a population-level solution to begin to address it—and prevention through education is always going to easier than trying to treat substance use disorder.
(3) Facilitating Public Dialogue on Tough Issues: I’ve run my neighborhood’s Community Council for the past 3 years, facilitating dialogue between the city and its residents, highlighting the need to address public safety issues in our neighborhood.
I want to serve on City Council to have more time, resources, and influence to keep up the work of facilitating public dialogue on tough issues, addressing our District’s public safety issues, and making Salt Lake City a healthier place to live!
Thank you for your time and attention,
Amy J. Hawkins, PhD
Chair, Ballpark Community Council
As per official University of Utah guidance, please note: I am Amy J. Hawkins; I am a Ph.D.-trained researcher and full-time faculty member at the University of Utah School of Medicine in the Department of Biochemistry, but I am writing on my personal behalf and not on behalf of the university.