The City Council unanimously voted Monday to allocate $130,000 for the hiring of a private security firm to patrol Balboa Park for a five-month period beginning in June.
City Manager Ray Blair said the hiring of a private firm was an interim measure in the effort to fight crime in the park. During budget deliberations this summer, the council will decide if additional permanent officers should be hired by the San Diego Police Department for park patrols.
“If the council were to make a decision to add permanent positions for this purpose to the Police Department fiscal 1986 budget, the Police Department would require a minimum of 14 weeks to field the positions, due to the extended time necessary to recruit, hire and train personnel,” Blair said in a report to the council.
“Consequently, it is anticipated that this (private security patrol) service will be required for a minimum of five months beginning in June, 1985.”
For $26,000 a month, the council intends to hire a private security firm that would provide four guards for patrol from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and two guards from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The guards would be unarmed, but in uniform and carrying radios to relay calls to the Police Department.
The guards would concentrate on patrolling parking lots, where most of the crime in the park occurs, according to Police Department statistics. During the first three months of this year, 153 of the reported crimes in the park were vehicle-related, Blair said in an earlier report to the council. The number of crimes in the park declined from 206 to 184 in the first quarter of this year compared to the first three months of 1984.
Nevertheless, the slaying of Old Globe actor David Huffman in February renewed the cry for additional crime prevention measures in the park. Blair predicted the private patrols would deter vehicle-related crime.
“Dramatic effects have been achieved at other locations with large accumulations of vehicles when there are frequent, visible patrols by uniformed staff,” Blair told the council.
“Despite the February homicide, crime in Balboa Park continues to be associated with vehicles and normal park usage,” Blair said. “Thefts from vehicles, transients lodging in the park and lewd acts constitute the majority of problems.
“Other issues requiring special attention include large weekend crowds in the Pepper Grove area, traffic blockages on Park Boulevard, drug dealing and disturbances, gang activity in the Golden Hill area, and complaints from residents concerning drug activity and excessive noise.”